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Enlarged Prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH)

Enlarged Prostate Quick Overview

A man's prostate gland usually starts to enlarge after he reaches 40 years of age. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The condition has also been referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy.

The prostate gland secretes a fluid that helps to nourish sperm. The gland itself surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the tip of the penis. As the prostate grows larger, it may press on the urethra. This narrowing of the urethra can cause some men with prostate enlargement to have trouble with urination. Prostate enlargement may be the most common health problem in men older than 60 years of age.

What Causes an Enlarged Prostate?

Patient Comments

The prostate gland, which is normally about the size and shape of a walnut, wraps around the urethra between the pubic bone and the rectum, below the bladder. In the early stage of prostate enlargement, the bladder muscle becomes thicker and forces urine through the narrowed urethra by contracting more powerfully. As a result, the bladder muscle may become more sensitive, causing a need to urinate more often and more suddenly.

The prostate grows larger due to an increase in the number of cells (hyperplasia). However, the precise reason for this increase is unknown. A variety of factors may be involved, including androgens (male hormones), estrogens, growth factors and other cell signaling pathways.

As the prostate grows larger and the urethra is squeezed more tightly, the bladder might not be able to fully compensate for the problem and completely empty. In some cases, blockage from prostate enlargement may cause repeated urinary tract infections and gradually result in bladder or kidney damage. It may also cause a sudden inability to urinate (acute urinary retention) -- a medical emergency.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/5/2016
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Enlarged Prostate:

Enlarged Prostate - Symptoms

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Enlarged Prostate - Cause

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Enlarged Prostate - Diagnosis

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Enlarged Prostate Symptom

Inability to Urinate

The two essential causes of urinary retention are (1) blockage of the urethra and (2) disruption of the delicate and complex system of nerves that connects the urinary tract with the brain and the nervous system (as described earlier).

Common causes

  • Blockage (obstruction): The most common cause of blockage of the urethra in men is enlargement of the prostate. In males, the prostate gland partially surrounds the urethra. If the prostate becomes enlarged, which is common in older men, it presses on the urethra and can block it. The most common cause of prostate enlargement is benign prostatic hypertrophy (often called BPH). Other causes of prostate enlargement include prostate cancer and prostate infection (prostatitis). Causes of blockage of the urethra that can occur in both sexes include scar tissue, injury (as in a car wreck or bad fall), blood clots, infection, tumors in the pelvic region, and stones (rare).

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Prostate Hyperplasia, Benign »

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that may restrict the flow of urine from the bladder.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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