Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a disorder characterized by the enlargement of the prostate gland. This condition is a common part of aging among men and occurs mainly after the age of 40. Some men might not be aware that they have BPH since there are cases where symptoms are lacking. However, a lot more cases include common enlarged prostate symptoms such as, a need to urinate frequently, particularly during the night; pain, burning and difficulty in starting and stopping urination; weak urine flow or dribbling; and a constant feeling that the bladder is not completely empty.
For men who do not experience enlarged prostate symptoms, they might not know that they have BPH until they suddenly find it difficult to urinate. This type of acute symptom called acute urinary retention may be triggered by taking over-the-counter medicines for colds and allergies. These drugs contain a decongestant called sympathomimetic which carries the potential side effect of preventing the bladder from opening or relaxing to allow urine to pass through. Acute urinary retention can also be caused by excessive drinking, cold temperatures and prolonged periods of immobility.
Severe cases of BPH can eventually lead to more serious problems like urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney damage, bladder stones and incontinence. Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, blood in the urine and lower back pain can also be signs of a severe type of enlarged prostate. However, men should not wait for these symptoms to manifest themselves, a visit to the doctor, particularly for those aged 40 and above, is the best way to know whether BPH has developed.
In diagnosing BPH, a urologist will usually start with a digital rectal exam (DRE). In DRE, the doctor will insert a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the part of the prostate near the rectum. DRE can give the doctor an idea of the size and condition of the prostate. Another test commonly used in cases of BPH is the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The PSA test is primarily done to rule out cancer as the cause of urinary symptoms. However, ways of interpreting PSA screening results still remain hazy and doctors are still unable to use the test to differentiate cancer from other prostate conditions. This test, though, works much better when used in conjunction with DRE.
Urine flow study is another method of detecting BPH. The device used in this test measures how quickly the urine is flowing. A reduced flow often suggests an enlarged prostate. Another type of test called the intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is basically an x-ray of the urinary tract which can show blockage or obstruction. Cytoscopy, on the other hand, involves the insertion of a small tube through the opening of the urethra in the penis. The tube called cytoscope helps determine the size of the prostate and identify the location and degree of obstruction.
If there is any suspicion of more severe conditions like cancer, a rectal ultrasound is usually recommended by the physician. The use of this test, though, does not mean that BPH leads to prostate cancer. Despite a lot of similarities between prostate cancer and enlarged prostate symptoms, scientists have claimed that no apparent association exists between the two conditions. Nevertheless, getting tested is the best way to rule out any possible occurrence of BPH or even cancer.