If you are a male aged 50 or over, chances are you know someone taking medication for an overgrown prostate gland, better known as benign prostatis hyperplasia (BPH). This condition can cause bothersome problems including frequent urination at night, as well as difficulty completely emptying the bladder, and the urgent need to urinate at inconvenient times. BPH triggers noticeable problems in a third of men in their 60s and nearly half of those in their 80s. Drug therapy is often used to relieve symptoms, and for severe problems, surgery may be considered. But in the case of men with milder symptoms, BPH may not interfere with their daily lives much, so another option will be watchful waiting.
During watchful waiting, you and your doctor monitor your symptoms closely and take action only when you feel it is necessary. Till then, simple changes in behavior can help to take the edge off urinary symptoms. This approach avoids the costs and risks associated with more aggressive treatment.
The prostate gland may begin to grow larger over time in many men. The urethra is the tube that conveys urine from the bladder to outside the body. It passes right through the prostate, so it doesn't take much prostate growth to make urination difficult. As the bladder works against the restriction, its muscular walls begin to thicken which can cause problems like the need for more frequent visits to the bathroom and difficulty fully emptying the bladder.
For some men, the symptoms of BPH don't demand immediate treatment. However, it is important to ask yourself questions like 'How much do your symptoms bother you?' Determining whether it is getting in the way of doing the things you want to do should be the primary driver of treatment.
To measure the frequency of a man's symptoms, doctors use the International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS). It's a seven-item questionnaire that delves into typical BPH symptoms, providing a score from 0 to 35. Typically, men who score 8 and above are more likely to think they need treatment - but this can vary from man to man.
Nevertheless, for men who choose to watch and wait, it doesn't mean doing nothing. It should include strategies to lessen symptoms or make them easier to cope with. In one study, men who attended classes on such self-management techniques lowered their IPSS symptom scores by 6 points within three months.
BPH progresses slowly, so most men can decide for themselves if and when they would like to consider medication or surgery. In most cases, men with mild to moderate symptoms often find that changes in fluid intake, medication use, and bladder habits can relieve BPH's bothersome effects. Let's take a look: