What is BPH?

Benign prostate hyperplasia, or BPH, is the term for the enlarging of the prostate.  It’s common for the prostate to do this with age. BPH is not cancerous, but it can cause the prostate to press down on the urethra.  This pressure can cause problems with urination.  One may lose bladder control and feel the need to urinate very often.1, 10, 11

What is the Prostate?

The prostate gland is a small gland that is only present in men and produces fluids that are part of semen.  It is about the size of a large walnut and sits just below your bladder.  It surrounds the urethra, like a collar.  Your urethra is a tube that carries urine outside of your body.  In some men, the prostate can enlarge and when this happens, it can cause the urethra to compress and this can cause symptoms such as not being able to urinate or feeling you have emptied your bladder completely, which it may not.  Conditions that can cause your prostate to enlarge include benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer, bacteria and non-bacteria prostatitis.1,2,3,5,12

Possible Causes

Doctors aren't sure exactly what causes the prostate to enlarge.  It may be due to changes in the balance of sex hormones as men grow older.7

Family history and ethnic background from may also be a risk factor.  For instance there is a higher incidence of BPH in Americans and Australians and less in Chinese, Indian and Japanese.2,3,5,10

How May this Impact You?

Most men with BPH have no complications.  But when there are problems, they usually come because of urine flow being blocked.  This condition is called “urinary retention".  This means being unable to empty the bladder completely.  

There are two kinds of urinary retention.  The first is called acute urinary retention (AUR for short).  This means you cannot urinate at all, even though you have a full bladder.  This happens suddenly and lasts only a short time.  It can be very painful, and it can cause recurrent UTIs, acute kidney failure and chronic kidney disease.  If you have AUR, you should contact your doc tor as soon as possible.1,2,4,10,11

The second kind of urinary retention is called chronic urinary retention (CUR).  Chronic means it is a long-lasting medical condition.  People with chronic urinary retention can urinate but cannot completely empty all of the urine from their bladders.  They may not know they have the condition until it causes another problem.  One of these problems could be the accidental loss of urine which is called urinary incontinence. Another of them is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is an illness caused by harmful bacteria growing in the urinary tract.1,10

Some symptoms of BPH:1,2,10,11

  • Weak urine stream
  • Difficulty starting urination - hesitation
  • Stopping and starting while urinating
  • Dribbling at the end of urination
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination at night
  • Not being able to completely empty the bladder
  • Formation of stones in the bladder
  • Reduced kidney function
  • UTI (urinary tract infection)

What are my Treatment Options?

The first thing your doctor may do is ask you some questions and may run a series of tests.  This may include blood tests, a digital rectal exam (DRE), an ultrasound to see how your bladder is emptying and/or a urine flow test.1,3,10,11

When your symptoms are mild, your doctor may recommend “watchful waiting“.  This means he will want to see you once a year or more often to keep an eye on your symptoms.  If he sees that BPH may be a health risk for you, or if it is a big inconvenience, he may decide you need additional treatment.  There are many treatments that can make BPH less of a problem.  These include drugs, minimally invasive procedures done in the office and surgery.1,2,3,11

Where can I find more information?

You can learn more about BPH and other prostate issues by contacting your doctor and by visiting any of the following websites.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/Pages/default.aspx

Urology Care Foundation http://www.urologyhealth.org/

Please note that this information provided by BARD Medical is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a medical professional. Information is as of 12/2014.  Please check references for updated information.


  1. Kirby R.S. Prostate Disease and their Treatments, Health Press Oxford 2010
  2. Diseases and Conditions; Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, Updated 12/2001 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia/basics/symptoms/con-20030812
  3. Lepo H, Management and Preventing Acute Urinary Retention, Rev Urol. 2005; 7 (Suppl 8) S26-S33
  4. Information about Prostate Cancer and Screening, Bard Medical, http://www.bardmedical.com/media/127667/prostatecancerpatientscreenings_1009_33.pdf
  5. Prostate Cancer Treatment – Questions and Answers, Bard Medical http://www.bardmedical.com/media/127676/prostatecancertreatment_patientbrochure1pformat__1010-23.pdf
  6. Pathophysiology of Disease: Introduction to Clinical Medicine, Seventh Edition, McGraw-Hill Education, 2014, pgs 26-40
  7. S Chao MD , R Chippendale MD, Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Geriatrics, Second Edition, Chapter 40, McGraw-Hill Education, 2014
  8. Campbell-Walsh Urology, 9th Edition, Saunders-Elsevier Philadelphia PA, 2007, pgs 57-61