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Benign prostatic hyperplasia, otherwise known as prostate gland enlargement or simply BPH, is a relatively common condition that affects approximately one-third of men above the age of 50. BPH refers to an enlarged prostate, which can affect an individual’s ability to urinate. Some sufferers experience this to be very troublesome, while others have only mild symptoms and do not require treatment. The cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is largely unknown, but experts believe it could be linked to hormonal changes as a result of aging. In other words, as the balance of hormones in the body changes with age, the prostate gland may begin to grow.

Signs and symptoms of BPH vary from one person to the next, but generally speaking, all sufferers experience a worsening of symptoms over time. The most common signs and symptoms include trouble starting to urinate, frequent urination in the middle of the night, dribbling after urination, a weak urine stream, the urgent need to urinate, being unable to empty the bladder, and a urine stream that stops and starts. As for less common signs and symptoms, these include blood in the urine, urinary tract infection, and the inability to urinate together.

There are a number of conditions that cause urinary symptoms similar to those of benign prostatic hyperplasia. These include scarring in the bladder neck, overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis, bladder or kidney stones, prostate or bladder cancer, problems with nerves that control the bladder, urinary tract infection, prostatitis, and urethral stricture. Prostatitis refers to inflammation of the prostate, while urethral stricture refers to a narrowing of the urethra. Each of these conditions is typically accompanied by lower urinary tract symptoms, or LUTS for short, which can be further classified into obstructive and irritative symptoms.

In order to diagnose benign prostatic hyperplasia, doctors may administer a digital rectal exam, a urine test, a blood test, a prostate-specific antigen blood test, a urinary flow test, a postcode residual volume test, a 24-hour voiding diary, a transrectal ultrasound, a prostate biopsy, a cystoscopy, and both urodynamic and pressure-flow studies. The choice of testing will depend on the complexity of the condition. The course of treatment will depend on the age and overall health of the sufferer, the size of their prostate, and the amount of discomfort that is present. Treatment options include medication, minimally invasive or surgical therapy, transurethral resection or incision of the prostate, transurethral microwave thermotherapy or needle ablation, embolization or laser therapy, open or robot-assisted prostatectomy, and prostatic urethral lift.

When left untreated, benign prostatic hyperplasia may lead to complications such as acute urinary retention and urinary tract infections. Acute urinary retention refers to the sudden inability to pass urine and is associated with pain in the lower tummy, as well as swelling of the bladder. Urinary tract infections, on the other hand, can affect the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. UTIs are usually characterized by the sudden need to urinate, urinating more than usual, blood in the urine, a burning sensation when urinating, smelly or cloudy urine, pain in the lower tummy, and a general feeling of being tired or unwell.