By the time they reach 60 years old, one-third of men in the U.S. will experience benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, otherwise known as an enlarged prostate. That number jumps to 90% for men 80 years or older, and many of them will have no symptoms. It’s such a small part of the male reproductive system, about the size of a small apricot; and the location of the prostate gland makes it a liability when it swells or grows.
“We think it’s due to hormonal changes that occur. The prostate gland enlarges and because it sits in front of the bladder it constricts the bladder neck, which is the tube that allows urine to pass,” said Frank Costa, M.D., an urological surgeon at the Allegheny Health Network in Orlando, Florida.
To Ed Gallagher, BPH felt like, “Progressive irritation, mental irritation. I was uncomfortable.”
The symptoms of the common disease include frequent or urgent need to urinate, dribbling, pain and inability to empty the bladder. Cold weather can even make the symptoms worse.
Dr. Costa said, “It could be something that just bothers one’s lifestyle, but in extreme circumstances it can present with symptoms that can actually cause kidney failure.”
The biggest risk factor is simply aging. One out of three men over 60 years old will experience symptoms of an enlarged prostate. It is less common in Asian men than in white and black men. Furthermore, studies show that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease increase the risk.
While BPH cannot be prevented, it can be treated with medication or surgery. If you have urination problems that have developed over a few weeks or a few months and are frequent, call your doctor.
Lastly, these symptoms are not always related to an enlarged prostate. Other conditions that may cause similar symptoms include urinary tract infections, prostate cancer, diabetes, heart failure, and neurologic diseases.