What is BPH?

BPH is shorthand for benign prostatic hyperplasia

'Benign' means the condition is not due to cancer. 'Prostatic' means it affects the prostate gland. 'Hyperplasia' means the cells of the prostate have grown larger and increased the total size of the gland.

An enlarged prostate can cause urinary problems by pressing on the bladder and the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis to the outside world). When men older than 60 are checked by a doctor, about one in three have an obviously enlarged prostate and moderate to severe urinary symptoms. The number of men who are affected continues to increase with age.

It's important to realise that BPH and the urinary problems it causes, are not related to prostate cancer.

Understanding your prostate

We humans need prostate glands, even though they can be troublesome in later life. The prostate is an important part of the male reproductive system, making fluid that supports and protects sperm in semen. It is common for the prostate to become enlarged as a man ages. The prostate doubles in size between the ages of 21 and 50 years, and almost doubles again between the ages of 50 and 80.

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. You can see the difference between a normal prostate and an enlarged prostate, or BPH, in this diagram.

imagine of a normal healthy prostate
Modified Image
imagine of a normal healthy prostate Modified Image

*** Drag the yellow button with double arrow on the image from left to right, to view effects of BPH

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  1. Prostate Enlargement: A guide to urinary symptoms in men. Andrology Australia, 4th edition, 2013
  2. Marberger. M. Medical management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men with benign prostatic enlargement. Advances in Therapeutics. 2013; 30 309-319