Benign prostatic hyperplasia: The condition, symptoms and complications

The problem of an enlarged prostrate, otherwise medically known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or the benign enlargement of the prostate, is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. It is a condition which can greatly affect the way men pass urine. While what causes BPH is not exactly clear, it is normally said to be a part of the aging process in men and is said to be caused by the changes in cell growth and hormonal balance.

How does BPH happen?
BPH is the hyperplasia (an increase in the amount of tissue) of prostatic epithelial and stromal cells which result in the formation of discrete, large nodules in the prostate’s transition zone. When they become sufficiently large, the nodules push forward, narrowing the urethra that leads to a greater resistance to urine flow from the bladder (a.k.a. obstruction, even though the actual phenomenon is compression). This causes the bladder to work harder during the voiding process, leading possibly to weakness, instability or progressive hypertrophy of the bladder muscle.

If an enlarged prostate causes bladder obstruction and remains untreated, there could be complications such as bladder stones, recurrent urinary tract infections, and even chronic kidney disease, which could lead to possible kidney failure.

Enlarged prostate symptoms
When the prostate becomes enlarged, it places pressure on the urethra and consequently, the bladder. Men suffering from BPH show the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in fully emptying the bladder
    Having a frequent need to pee, sometimes even in the middle of the night
    Difficulty in beginning to pass urine as well as end it
  • Having a weak urine system
  • Getting the feeling that your bladder isn’t completely empty all the time

While in some men, the symptoms are mild and don’t need treatment, they can get very troublesome in others. In very rare cases, an enlarged prostate causes the bladder to become blocked, making it extremely difficult or even impossible to urinate. This problem could also result in urinary retention, which could lead to kidney damage, bladder stones and infections.

Complications of BPH
Benign prostate enlargement can sometimes lead to complications as well. These include acute urinary retention and urinary tract infections. Acute urinary retention (AUR) refers to the sudden failure to pass any urine. Symptoms of AUR include swelling of the bladder (so much so that you can feel it with your hands), severe lower abdominal pain, and suddenly not being able to pee at all. One should immediately go to the nearest ER if one experiences these symptoms of AUR.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in 20-50% of the men beyond the age of 50; symptoms being a frequent and intense urge to urinate, foul-smelling or cloudy urine, pain in the bladder region, burning sensation or pain during urination, etc. One should visit a physician immediately, who will prescribe antibiotics.

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