The Most Common Prostate Problem for Men Over 50

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What is the most common prostate problem for men older than age 50? If you said BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), or an enlarged prostate, you’d be right. At age 20, the prostate is about the size of a crab apple, but when a man reaches his mid-40s, the area of the prostate that encircles the urethra begins to grow. This overgrowth of prostate tissue is called BPH, or benign prostatic enlargement (BPE). By about age 70, the average prostate has doubled in size. In some men, the expanding prostate may constrict the urethra, causing symptoms such as difficulty starting urination or a weak urine stream.

BPH occurs more often in Western industrialized countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, for example) than in Eastern countries (such as Japan and China). BPH appears to be more common among black men than among white men, and some evidence suggests that a family history of BPH may increase the risk. Being overweight, especially with extra fat concentrated around the abdomen, increases the risk of developing BPH

It is estimated that 50 percent of men at age 50 and 80 percent of men at age 80 have BPH-related lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Unless symptoms are bothersome and begin to interfere with quality of life, treatment is not required for this non-life-threatening condition.

The main treatment options for BPH include medications that either shrink the prostate or relax the muscle tissue that constricts the urethra; surgery to remove, ablate, or vaporize excess prostate tissue; and heat therapy, called thermotherapy, that eliminates excess tissue.