Benign Prostate Disease

New York, NY
August 6 , 2001

For an aging male baby boomer population, maintaining good prostate health is essential. Studies show that as men age, the chances that their prostate will become enlarged and cause urinary problems increases. By age 80, about 80 percent of males will have an enlarged prostate.

How do you know if you have a problem? According to the National Kidney Foundation, trouble starts when the prostate gland, which is located below the bladder, becomes so large that it actually squeezes the urethra, causing difficulty urinating. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), also known as benign prostate disease:

  • A weak urinary stream
  • Trouble starting urination
  • Urinating more often
  • Pain or burning while urinating

"Annual prostate checkups for men over the age of 40 are vital for early detection of prostate cancer and BPH," says Dr. William Keane, president of the National Kidney Foundation. "Though most men who are diagnosed with BPH do not have cancer, left untreated BPH can cause potentially serious complications."

BPH requires treatment only if the symptoms are severe enough to be troublesome to the patient or if there are other complications, such as bleeding, kidney infections or kidney damage. Surgery is currently the most widely accepted method of treating patients who are experiencing some of the more serious symptoms of an enlarged prostate. The operation involves removing some of the swollen tissue to relieve the symptoms. New forms of therapy include laser surgery; electrovaporization, which uses high levels of electrical current to destroy prostate tissue; thermal therapy, an outpatient procedure that uses microwave energy or radiofrequency energy and the use of herbal extracts such as saw palmetto to relieve symptoms.

If a patient's symptoms are less severe, there are two types of medications that are commonly used to treat prostate enlargement. Drugs that are normally used for high blood pressure (alpha blockers) help to relax the muscle tissue in the prostate, relieving part of the blockage. Another type of medication used is effective in shrinking the prostate by blocking the effect testosterone has on the prostate gland.

For more information on BPD, call the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-622-9010, or try our A to Z guide.