What is BPH?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a fairly common and disruptive condition in men over age 50. It doesn’t usually lead to serious complications, but it can.

BPH is an enlarged prostate. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. Its job is to produce semen.

The prostate is underneath the bladder, just in front of the rectum. The urethra, which allows urine from the bladder to flow out through the penis, runs right through the prostate.

Your prostate is rather small at birth. A growth spurt during puberty makes it double in size. Around the age of 25, it starts growing again, but at a slow rate. A normal, healthy prostate in an adult man weighs about an ounce and is no larger than a walnut.

If the prostate continues to grow beyond that, it can put pressure on the urethra. This pressure can cause obstruction to the outflow of urine. In other words, you’ll have difficulty urinating, a weak stream, and the inability to completely empty your bladder.

According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 50 percent of men between the ages of 51 and 60 have BPH. About 90 percent of men over age 80 have it.

Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of BPH and kidney damage and what to do about it.

Renal failure, or kidney failure, is when your kidneys can no longer do their job of fluid filtration and excretion. There are five different stages of kidney failure. In the most advanced stage, you must have ongoing dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

Common causes of kidney failure include diabetes and certain autoimmune or genetic diseases. Certain drugs, high blood pressure, dehydration, infections, or obstruction to the outflow of urine can also hurt your kidneys.

Anything that gets in the way of urine leaving the body can lead to acute renal failure. Kidney stones or blood clots in the urinary tract can cause it. Prostate cancer or BPH can cause it as well.

Symptoms of BPH tend to get worse over time. In the most severe cases, BPH can lead to infection, bladder damage, or kidney damage. It’s not common, but BPH can lead to renal failure. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment for BPH before it causes damage to your kidneys.

The good news is that most men with BPH don’t develop kidney damage or renal failure.

The most common complaint of men with BPH is the need to get up during the night to urinate. It might feel like your bladder is full, even if you urinated recently. There might be a sense of urgency, but the stream may be weak. You may have to strain to urinate. If it gets bad enough, you may find it difficult to urinate at all.

Symptoms of renal failure include:

  • diminished urine volume
  • swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs due to fluid retention
  • shortness of breath or chest pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea

As it progresses, kidney failure can cause confusion, seizures, or coma. This is a life-threatening situation.

When repeated trips to the bathroom are robbing you of sleep, it’s time to see your doctor. They can feel the size of your prostate by placing a gloved finger just inside your rectum. Your doctor may refer you to a urologist.

Seek medical attention if you have blood in your urine, can’t urinate, or are retaining fluid.

If you have BPH, your doctor can prescribe certain medications to treat it. These include drugs that relax the sphincter that controls the flow of urine, such as tamsulosin (Flomax). Your doctor may also prescribe drugs that make the prostate smaller, such as dutasteride or finasteride (Proscar).

If you have BPH, treatment isn’t always necessary. Your doctor can monitor it during regular checkups. Be sure to report new symptoms if you develop them.

Addressing the serious symptoms of BPH early on can improve quality of life and help prevent damage to the bladder and kidneys.

If medications don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove some of the prostate tissue. The most common procedure to accomplish this is called TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate). For this procedure, the surgeon will put you under general anesthesia and insert a tube into your penis. They will then insert a surgical tool through this tube to remove prostate tissue.

At your next checkup, ask your doctor about your personal risk factors for BPH and renal failure. You can discuss preventative measures and any needed treatment options.