Prostate gland enlargement, mostly known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common condition among men. The risk of this condition increases with age, especially after fifty years. The American Urological Association (AUA) estimates that 50% of men aged sixty years suffer from prostate enlargement and by 85%, this figure shoots to 90%. The condition is characterized by regular trips to the bathroom, especially at night. In most cases, it starting a urine stream becomes very difficult. Prostate enlargement can affect the quality of patient's life. Taking long flights becomes a challenge to most people.
Prostate enlargement is caused by abnormal multiplication of prostate cells. The enlargement exerts unnecessary pressure on the urethra, causing it to narrow. With a narrow urethra, it becomes difficult to pass urine because more pressure is needed to force the bladder to contract so as urine is pushed from the body. The regular stretching of the bladder thickens the muscles making them stronger and sensitive. It is the regular contraction of the bladder that brings about the need to urinate. Advanced stages of BPH may eventually result in urine retention, which is total inability to urinate.
There are many symptoms of BPH. It is however not easy to establish the condition based on these symptoms. Proper tests and diagnosis are required. Some of the symptoms include, but not limited to:
The inability to completely empty the bladder may cause the development of urinary tract infections, bladder stones, acute retention of urine, and blood stains in urine, among others. Such instances require urgent medical attention. Though rare, the risks of kidney and/or bladder cancer are higher in people with BPH.
It has been established that a large number of men suffer from prostate enlargement for years without even noticing. However, doctors recommend that medical attention should be sought and necessary examination conducted as soon as any of the aforementioned symptoms is detected. Note that these symptoms closely resemble those of other conditions, such as prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and bladder stones, among others. The right tests will be determined by the doctor based on the age, and severity of the symptoms.
During the onset stages, these symptoms are usually minor and can easily be brushed off. However, the moment urination starts affecting the quality of your life, you find it difficult to engage in activities you love, affect your sleep at night and keep worsening, then it is about time to see a doctor.
There are several treatment options for enlarged prostate. They include prostate gland drugs, invasive office procedure and in serious cases, mostly as a last resort, surgery. The choice of treatment will be determined by the overall health of the patient, age and severity of the symptoms, which is determined based on the size of the prostate. In most cases, each of the above treatment methods might be used progressively; starting with drugs, then invasive treatment. If the symptoms don't improve, that is when surgery becomes an option. There is however an exception to this; the medication can be bypassed if the condition is worse.
Invasive treatment is mostly used for fast relief and in most cases upon the failure of prostate gland drugs. It is preferred to surgery because patients recover faster, lower risks of experiencing side effects such as inability to erect (this is a high risk with surgery) and can be conducted multiple times.
There are many FDA-approved drugs used to relieve symptoms of prostate enlargement. Their mechanism varies. Use of medication is however effective and highly recommended. Furthermore, most of them are not associated with common side effects when used. Common medicines include:
These drugs relieve the symptoms but don't reduce the size of the enlarged prostate. When taken, they relax prostate muscles, enabling the bladder to relax, allowing easy flow of urine. They are especially recommended for fast relief, with symptoms improving in less than two days. Alpha blockers are prescribed for normal to moderate cases of prostate enlargement. Common drugs in this category include Flomax (Tamsulosin), Hytrin (Terazosin), Uroxatral and Cardura. Flomax and Hytrin are however the most commonly prescribed because they are effective with very low risks of side effects.
These prostate gland drugs reduce the level of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is responsible for the growth of prostate, causing it to shrink. Unlike alpha blockers, these drugs can take up to three months to improve the BPH symptoms. Patients may have to take them for up to 12 months. Common brands in this category include Propecia, Proscar (Finasteride) and Avodart (Dustasteride), both FDA-approved and highly effective.
As earlier mentioned, prostate gland medications are not associated with serious side effects. However, there are some common ones, such as headache, stuffy nose, nausea, and stomach irritation. Others include low libido, erection problems and reduced semen volumes. You are however advised to talk to your doctor on possible adverse reactions before using prostate gland drugs.