Introduction 

Prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a common condition that affects older men. It is usually not a serious threat to health.

The prostate is a small gland found only in men, located between the penis and bladder (see About the prostate on this page).

If the prostate becomes enlarged, it can place pressure on the bladder and urethra, the tube through which urine passes. This can affect how you pass urine, because it may cause:

  • difficulty starting urination
  • a frequent need to urinate
  • difficulty fully emptying the bladder

These symptoms can range from mild to severe. See symptoms of prostate enlargement.

Many men worry that having an enlarged prostate means that they have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. This is not the case. Men with prostate enlargement do not have a higher risk of prostate cancer compared to men without an enlarged prostate. 

How common is prostate enlargement?

Prostate enlargement is a common condition associated with ageing. Around 60% of men who are aged 60 or over have some degree of prostate enlargement.

The cause of prostate enlargement is unknown, but most experts agree that it is linked to changes in hormone levels in a man’s body due to ageing (see causes of prostate enlargement for more information).

Outlook

Prostate enlargement is not usually a serious threat to a man’s health.

In some men, the symptoms are mild and do not require treatment. In others, symptoms can be very troublesome and have a major impact on their quality of life.

Complications of prostate enlargement can include urinary tract infections (UTIs) or acute urinary retention (AUR) but serious complications are rare. 

There are several treatments available for prostate enlargement, including:

  • lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • medication
  • surgery

See treatment of prostate enlargement for more information.




Prostate enlargement animation

Prostate enlargement or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common condition in older men. This animation explains what the prostate gland is and how it functions. It also highlights the importance of seeing your GP to check for prostate cancer.

Media last reviewed: 04/03/2014

Next review due: 04/03/2016

About the prostate

The prostate is located in the pelvis, between the penis and bladder, and surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis).

The prostate is involved in the production of semen. It produces a thick, white fluid that is made into a liquid by a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The liquid is then mixed with sperm, produced by the testicles, to create semen.

Page last reviewed: 27/03/2013

Next review due: 27/03/2015