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What is BPH?

Sometimes it’s called enlarged prostate. Sometimes it’s referred to as benign enlargement of the prostate (BEP). But most often it is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Whatever you call it, you probably never have to be reminded of how an enlarged prostate feels or how it can interrupt your life.


The prostate is a male reproductive gland that surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine passes out of the body. The prostate grows to normal size—about the size of a walnut—during a male’s teenage years. Though not fully known why, the prostate may begin to grow again when a man reaches middle age. This enlargement of the prostate is considered to be benign: it is not cancer, and it does not raise your risk for prostate cancer.1


One of the most common diseases of aging men,2 BPH causes health problems among older men.3 About 1 in 4 men will experience BPH-related symptoms by age 55; by age 60, half of all men have BPH symptoms; and 90% of men experience BPH by age 85.3,4 Although it affects many men differently, it can be associated with bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms.2


As the prostate enlarges, it puts pressure on the urethra similar to a clamp on a garden hose. With continued growth, the expanding prostate may constrict the urethra, causing symptoms such as difficulty starting urination or a weak urine stream.4

Symptoms can include1,4,5:

  • Sudden urge to urinate (urgency)
  • Difficulty starting and stopping your urine stream (hesitation)
  • The need to push or strain when urinating
  • Dribbling
  • Incomplete emptying (the sensation that the bladder is not empty after urinating)
  • Weak urine flow
  • Increased or decreased frequency of urination
  • Frequent nighttime urination (nocturia)
  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Incontinence
  • Blood in urine (hematuria)

These bothersome symptoms can have a profound effect on a man’s life, as men often change their lives to accommodate the need to urinate frequently. Treatment for the condition is necessary only if symptoms become intolerable. By age 80, 20% to 30% of men experience BPH symptoms severe enough to require treatment.4


  1. Benign enlargement of prostate. ADAM Health Illustrated Encyclopedia. Downloaded from Healthline at http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/enlarged-prostate. Accessed Oct. 21, 2010.
  2. American Urological Association. Diagnosis and treatment recommendations. In: AUA Guideline on the Management of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Linthicum, MD: American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. ;2003;4:1-43.
  3. Barry M, Roehrborn C. Management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Annu Rev Med. 1997;48:177-189.
  4. Carter HB. Prostate Disorders: The Johns Hopkins White Papers. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Medicine; 2010:1-24.
  5. McNaughton-Collins M, Barry MJ. Managing patients with lower urinary tract symptoms suggestive of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Am J Med. 2005;118:1331-1339.