With Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) being the most prevalent disease for aging men, there’s no doubt that discovering you have an enlarged prostate, whether in the shower or after receiving a diagnosis, is a terrifying experience. And you aren’t alone. Approximately 90% of men over the age of 85 develop BPH, which accounts for as many as 14 million men in the United States alone. The good news? It’s benign, which means that the growth isn’t cancer. Phew! However, this condition can still present some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, particularly relating to urination. If left untreated, BPH can lead to bladder stones, bladder damage and kidney damage. So, let’s not waste any time. If you or a loved one is experiencing benign prostatic hyperplasia, knowledge is all the power you need to regain control of your health and life again and we have you covered in this article.
The 101 on Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
By definition, benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH for short, is a condition men experience where they have an enlarged prostate gland. But if we were to break it down a bit further, hyperplasia means an enlarged prostate and benign means the growth is not cancerous. It’s the most common type of noncancerous tumour in men, affecting approximately 14 million adult men in the United States.
When you have BPH, the enlarged prostate squeezes the tube (urethra) that carries urine, making it more difficult to urinate. This can present numerous symptoms pertaining to urinating, such as urinary frequency, urinary urgency, difficulties starting to urination, a weak or interrupted stream, dribbling and frequent urination during sleep. These symptoms can lead to more serious problems and potentially life-threatening problems if left untreated, including bladder stones, bladder damage and kidney damage.
Interestingly, benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer occurs more often in Western countries than in Eastern countries. This suggests a possible link between the Western diet and lifestyle and prostate health.
Signs of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a chronic, complex disease that is typically progressive. This means that it gradually advances over time. The first signs of BPH are usually urinary symptoms, such as a blocked flow of urine, the frequent or urgent need to urinate, difficulty urinating or a weak urine stream. If these symptoms aren’t addressed and treatment is not sought after, these symptoms can worsen, eventually leading to bladder, urinary tract and kidney problems.
The interesting thing about the signs of BPH is that the severity of your symptoms does not determine the severity of your condition. For example, you can have minimal symptoms and discomfort and still have a serious case of BPH or vice versa.
As a quick recap, here’s a look at the signs and symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Urgent need to urinate
- Increased frequency of urination at night
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak urine stream
- Urine stream stops and starts
- Dribbling at the end of urination
- Inability to completely empty the bladder
- Urinary tract infection
- Inability to urinate
- Blood in the urine
Keep in mind that most men with an enlarged prostate will not develop these symptoms and will remain fairly asymptomatic.
Causes of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
As mentioned previously, BPH is more common in Western countries than in Eastern countries. This could very well be due to the Western diet and lifestyle. Our food is fast and filled with preservatives, and our lifestyle is sedentary and filled with toxins. However, there aren’t enough studies to confirm this.
What the studies do suggest is that benign prostatic hyperplasia is the result of a change in the balance of sex hormones. Studies have also found some common risk factors for BPH, which include the following:
- Age: BPH rarely presents symptoms in men under the age of 40 and primarily affects men 60 and over (1/3 of men experience symptoms by age 60, and about ½ do so by age 80).
- Family history: Having a blood relative with prostate problems means you’re more likely to have problems.
- Diabetes and heart disease. Studies show that diabetes, heart disease and the use of beta-blockers may increase the risk of BPH.
- Lifestyle: Factors, such as obesity, increase the risk of BPH
Common treatments for BPH
When it comes to treating benign prostatic hyperplasia, there’s no shortage of options for treatment. Whether it’s medication and medical procedures or natural home remedies and lifestyle changes, speaking with a healthcare professional can help you determine the best course of action for your specific condition. This typically depends on your age, the size of your prostate, the level of discomfort you’re experiencing, and your overall health and wellness.
To get you started on your healing, here are common treatments for benign prostatic hyperplasia and what you can expect from each.
Medication is a common form of treatment for mild to moderate symptoms of BPH. There are many different options to choose from, with many coming with potential side effects. So, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before choosing the type of medication to take. However, some popular options include:
- Alpha-blockers: these medications are designed to relax the muscles in your bladder and prostate to make urination easier. They work quickly in men with relatively small prostates and slight symptoms. Potential side effects include dizziness and a condition where semen doesn’t go out of the tip of the penis and goes back into the bladder instead, known as retrograde ejaculation.
- 5-alpha reductase inhibitors: these medications shrink your prostate by preventing hormonal changes. They can take up to six months to be effective and can also cause retrograde ejaculation.
- Combination of the two: Some treatment plans combine the two medications if either of the medications weren’t effective on their own.
- Tadalafil (Cialis): this medication is used to treat erectile dysfunction but has also shown to be effective for treating prostate enlargement.
Surgery for BPH
Another option for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia is surgery. This is typically recommended if medication hasn’t worked for you, your symptoms are moderate to severe, or are experiencing urinary tract obstruction, bladder stones, blood in your urine or kidney problems. However, it’s important to note that surgery may not be an option for you if you have an untreated urinary tract infection, urethral stricture disease, a neurological disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease or M.S., or have a history of prostate radiation therapy or urinary tract surgery.
Opting for surgery also comes with a list of potential side effects and complications, including retrograde ejaculation, temporary difficulty with urination, urinary tract infection, bleeding, erectile dysfunction or, very rarely, a loss of bladder control. They also require downtime to recover and can be invasive. So, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
However, here are a few of the most common surgical procedures for BPH:
- Transurethral resection of the prostate: this procedure removes all parts of the prostate, except the outer part to relieve symptoms quickly.
- Transurethral incision of the prostate: this procedure uses a scope to make small cuts in the prostate gland for easier urination and is ideal if you have a small or moderately enlarged prostate gland or underlying health conditions that make other surgeries too risky.
- Transurethral microwave thermotherapy: this procedure uses an electrode to destroy the inner portion of the enlarged prostate gland to shrink it and makes urine flow easier. It may only relieve some symptoms, and it can take some time for results to appear.
- Transurethral needle ablation: this procedure uses radio waves to pass through and destroy excess prostate tissue that’s creating a blockage. It’s a rare procedure used today but is still a possible option.
- Laser therapy: this procedure uses a high-energy laser to destroy or remove overgrown prostate tissue and relieve symptoms immediately. It also has a lower risk of side effects and is typically used in men who can’t have other prostate procedures because they are on blood-thinning medications.
- Prostatic urethral lift: this procedure uses special tags to compress the sides of the prostate to increase easier urine flow. It’s typically offered when there is a concern about erectile dysfunction and ejaculatory problems.
- Open or robot-assisted prostatectomy: this procedure consists of making an incision in your lower abdomen to remove tissue and is typically done if you have an extremely large prostate, bladder damage or other complicating factors.
Natural Home Remedies and Tips
There are also many natural home remedies and tips you can use to begin healing benign prostatic hyperplasia, such as:
- Using saw palmetto supplements
- Taking ryegrass pollen
- Using stinging nettle
- Drinking green tea
- Getting more lycopene (found in papaya, grapefruit, watermelon, guava, carrots, red bell peppers, apricots, red cabbage, etc.)
- Increasing zinc
- Adding soy into your diet
- Getting more omega-3s in your diet
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Avoiding products that cause dehydration
- Limiting saturated fats
- Eating a plant-based diet
- Look up guides that touch on the subject. We recommend: The Prostate Protocol
Benign prostatic hyperplasia affects 90% of men over the age of 85 years old but there are many effective treatment options available that can soothe, eradicate and even reverse your symptoms, so you can regain your comfort and confidence again.