An enlarged prostate is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostatic hypertrophy. This condition is common in older men, and refers to an enlargement of the prostate gland. The symptoms vary, but most commonly involve changes or problems with urination. In the United States in 2000, there were 4.5 million visits to a physician for this condition.
It is common for the prostate gland to become enlarged as a man ages. Doctors call the condition benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), benign prostatic hypertrophy, or an enlarged prostate.
As a man matures, the prostate goes through two main periods of growth. The first occurs early in puberty, when the prostate doubles in size. At around age 25, the gland begins to grow again. This second growth phase often results, years later, in BPH.
Though the prostate continues to grow during most of a man's life, the enlargement doesn't usually cause problems until late in life. An enlarged prostate rarely causes symptoms before age 40, but more than half of men in their sixties and as many as 90 percent in their seventies and eighties have some symptoms of BPH.
As the prostate enlarges, the layer of tissue surrounding it stops it from expanding, causing the gland to press against the urethra like a clamp on a garden hose. The bladder wall becomes thicker and irritated. The bladder begins to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, causing more frequent urination. Eventually, the bladder weakens and loses the ability to empty itself, and urine remains in the bladder. Both the narrowing of the urethra and partial emptying of the bladder cause many of the problems associated with BPH.
Many people feel uncomfortable talking about the prostate, since the gland plays a role in both sex and urination. Still, prostate enlargement is as common a part of aging as gray hair. As life expectancy rises, so does the occurrence of BPH. In the United States in 2000, there were 4.5 million visits to physicians for an enlarged prostate.