You may first notice the symptoms of BPH yourself, or your doctor may find that your prostate is enlarged during a routine checkup. When BPH is suspected, you may be referred to a urologist -- a doctor who specializes in problems of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system. Several tests help the doctor identify the problem and decide whether surgery is needed. The tests vary from person to person, but the following are the most common:
- Digital rectal exam
- Prostate specific antigen test (PSA test)
- Rectal ultrasound
- Urine flow study
(Click BPH Diagnosis for more information.)
Men who have BPH and enlarged prostate symptoms will usually require some form of treatment at some point. However, a number of recent studies have questioned the need for early treatment when the gland is only mildly enlarged. These studies report that early treatment may not be needed because the symptoms clear up without it in as many as one-third of all mild cases. Instead of immediate treatment, these studies recommend regular checkups to watch for early problems. If the condition begins to pose a danger to the person's health or causes a major inconvenience to him, treatment is usually recommended.
Since BPH may contribute to urinary tract infections, a doctor will usually clear up any infection with antibiotics before treating the BPH itself. Although the need for treatment is not usually urgent, doctors generally advise going ahead with treatment once the problems become bothersome or present a health risk.
About half of the men with BPH eventually have symptoms that are bothersome enough to need treatment. This condition cannot be cured, but drugs or surgery can often relieve symptoms. In addition, symptoms do not always grow worse.
There are three ways to manage BPH:
- Watchful waiting (having regular follow-up appointments with your doctor)
- Drug therapy
If you have BPH, talk with your doctor about which type of treatment is the best choice for you. Your symptoms may change over time, so be sure to tell your doctor about any new symptoms you experience.
(Click BPH Treatment for more information.)