Prostate Health - Top Symptoms of BPH

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is an enlargement of the prostate gland. BPH is extremely common and most men will experience an enlarged prostate at some point in their life. Typically, this occurs after age 50 but can start as early as 30. BPH occurs when prostate cells grow in number, resulting in an enlarged prostate gland that can cause symptoms of urinary obstruction. Although the exact cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is unknown, researchers believe it may be due to the fluctuations in sex hormones, especially testosterone, that occur normally with age. BPH does not increase your risk of prostate cancer, but it can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms and even bladder or kidney damage if left untreated.

Common symptoms of BPH include:

·      a sudden urge to urinate

·      difficulty beginning urination

·      a weak urine stream

·      dribbling after urination

·      waking more often at night to urinate

·      incontinence

The most important risk factors for developing BPH are age, diabetes, obesity, Asian heritage, heart disease, and family history. Benign prostatic hypertrophy can be diagnosed by reviewing your medical history, family history, discussing symptoms, and performing a physical exam.

Tests used to determine a diagnosis of BPH may include:

·       Rectal exam to determine the size, texture, and shape of prostate.

·       Transrectal ultrasound to rule out prostate cancer

·       Urine tests to rule out an infected prostate (prostatitis)

·       Prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)

Once BPH has been diagnosed, there are multiple treatment options to consider. Men who don’t experience symptoms of BPH don’t necessarily require treatment. Medications such as finasteride to lower hormone levels or blood pressure medicines known as alpha-1-reductase inhibitors may help improve urine flow, but often have unwanted side-effects. For severe cases surgery may even be considered. Many lifestyle changes, however, have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of BPH, and in mild cases may be all that is required. Examples of these include:

  • Urinating as soon as you get the urge

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine

  • Avoiding all liquids within two hours of bedtime

  • Eliminating the use of drugs (both prescription and over the counter) which can aggravate symptoms of urinary obstruction

  • Double void by trying to urinate again a few minutes after urinating the first time, to drain the bladder as much as possible during bathroom visits

  • Stay hydrated by drinking at least 2 liters of water daily

  • Try to reduce or avoid stress to reduce the urge for urination

  • Exercising regularly and often

In the ongoing Harvard-based Health Professionals Follow-up Study, men who were more physically active were less likely to suffer from BPH. Even low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, had positive benefits. 

In addition to the lifestyle measures above, there are several nutritional changes and supplements to help improve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. It should be noted that at least eight weeks of supplement therapy is required before you see improvement of symptoms. Below are some of the recommendations:

  • Eat healthier monounsaturated and omega-3 fats and avoid saturated and trans fats.

  • Although controversial for other conditions, Soy has been shown to improve prostate health.

  • Clinical evidence indicates that saw palmetto can help shrink the size of the prostate, and it may help promote healthy prostate function. A typical dose is 160 mg of an extract twice a day.

Other herbs and nutrients that may be beneficial include Pygeum (Pyguem africanum), stinging nettle root (Urtica dioica), Zi-Shen Pill (ZSP), Cernilton, Orbignya speciosa (babassu), Lycopene, pumpkin seed extract, zinc, selenium, and green tea.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of BPH listed above, it is important to have a comprehensive evaluation to determine the cause. In addition, men with prostate cancer might not experience any symptoms at all before their diagnosis, so prevention and regular check-ups are important as well. Our providers will help you stay ahead of the game or will work with you to determine the underlying cause of your urinary symptoms and can provide an individualized plan that is right for you.