Benign prostate enlargement (BPE) is the medical term to describe an enlarged prostate, a condition that can affect how you pass urine.
BPE is common in men aged over 50. It's not a cancer and it's not usually a serious threat to health.
Many men worry that having an enlarged prostate means they have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. This is not the case.
The risk of prostate cancer is no greater for men with an enlarged prostate than it is for men without an enlarged prostate.
Symptoms of benign prostate enlargement
The prostate is a small gland, located in the pelvis, between the penis and bladder.
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 pee and may cause:
- difficulty starting to pee
- a frequent need to pee
- difficulty fully emptying your bladder
In some men, the symptoms are mild and do not need treatment. In others, they can be very troublesome.
Causes of benign prostate enlargement
The cause of prostate enlargement is unknown, but it's believed to be linked to hormonal changes as a man gets older.
The balance of hormones in your body changes as you get older and this may cause your prostate gland to grow.
Media review due: 22 January 2021
Diagnosing benign prostate enlargement
You might have several different tests to find out if you have an enlarged prostate.
A GP may do some of these tests, like a urine test, but others might need to be carried out at a hospital.
Some tests may be needed to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms to BPE, such as prostate cancer.
Treating benign prostate enlargement
Treatment for an enlarged prostate will depend on the severity of your symptoms.
If you have mild symptoms, you do not usually need immediate treatment, but you'll have regular prostate check-ups.
You'll probably also be advised to make lifestyle changes, such as:
- drinking less alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks
- limiting intake of artificial sweeteners
- exercising regularly
- drinking less in the evening
Medicine to reduce the size of the prostate and relax your bladder may be recommended to treat moderate to severe symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
Surgery is usually only recommended for moderate to severe symptoms that have failed to respond to medicine.
Complications of benign prostate enlargement
Benign prostate enlargement can sometimes lead to complications, such as:
- a urinary tract infection
- an acute urinary retention
Acute urinary retention (AUR) is the sudden inability to pass any urine.
Symptoms of AUR include:
- suddenly not being able to pee at all
- severe lower tummy pain
- swelling of the bladder that you can feel with your hands
Go immediately to your nearest A&E if you experience the symptoms of AUR.
Page last reviewed: 31 March 2017
Next review due: 31 March 2020