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Jamaica Scientific Research Institute
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Enlarged Prostate Glands

Prostate gland enlargement also called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) or Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy is simply a condition in men where the prostate gland gets bigger.

The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland that forms part of the male reproductive system. The gland is made of two lobes, or regions, enclosed by an outer layer of tissue. It is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, where urine is stored. The urethra, the canal through which urine passes out of the body, goes right through the center of the prostate so that as the gland gets bigger, one of the most common signs of BPH is that it begins to block (obstruct) urine flow.

Scientists do not know all the functions of the prostate, but one of its main roles is that it produces most of the fluid in semen, the milky-colored fluid that nourishes and energizes sperm and that it squeezes the semen into the urethra during sexual climax (orgasm).

Most men have continued prostate growth throughout life, but the most significant growth can be pinpointed to occur at two periods: early in puberty, when the prostate doubles in size and then at about age 25.

BPH rarely causes symptoms before age 40, but more than half of men in their sixties and as many as 90 percent in their seventies and eighties have some symptoms of BPH.

As the prostate enlarges, the layer of tissue surrounding it stops it from expanding outwards.

This causes the gland to press against the urethra and the bladder. The bladder wall gets irritated and becomes thicker over time, and is prompted to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine. This leads to more frequent urination. Eventually, the bladder weakens and loses the ability to empty itself fully. The narrowed urethra and partial emptying of the bladder cause many of the problems linked to BPH.


The actual cause of prostate enlargement is unknown. It may however be due to:

  • Factors linked to aging such as changes in the balance of sex hormones as men grow older. Throughout their lives, men produce both testosterone, an important male hormone, and small amounts of estrogen, a female hormone. As men age, the amount of active testosterone in the blood decreases, leaving a higher proportion of estrogen. Studies done on animals have suggested that BPH may occur because the higher amount of estrogen within the gland increases the activity of substances that promote cell growth.

  • The testicles that also affect hormonal changes directly, but which themselves, may play a role in the growth of the gland. Men who have had their testicles removed at a young age (for example, as a result of testicular cancer) do not develop BPH. Similarly, if the testicles are removed after a man develops BPH, the prostate begins to shrink in size.

  • Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels. DHT is a substance that is derived from testosterone in the prostate and which may help to control the growth of the gland. Some research has indicated that even with a drop in the blood's testosterone level, older men continue to produce and accumulate high levels of DHT in the prostate. This accumulation of DHT may encourage the growth of cells. Scientists have also noted that men who do not produce DHT do not develop BPH.

Risk Factors

The cause of BPH is not known and no definite risk factor has been identified apart from having normal functioning testes.

There is no correlation between Enlarged Prostate Glands and Prostate Cancer.


Many symptoms of BPH stem from:

  1. obstruction of the urethra and
  2. gradual loss of bladder function, which results in incomplete emptying of the bladder.

Less than half of all men with BPH have no symptoms of the disease and for those who do, the symptoms vary. The most common symptoms, however, involve changes or problems with urination, such as:


  • Dribbling at the end of urinating
  • Inability to urinate (urinary retention)
  • Incomplete emptying of your bladder
  • Stopping and starting when urinating
  • Incontinence
  • Frequent urination and needing to urinate two or more times per night (nocturia)
  • Pain with urination or bloody urine (these may indicate infection)


  • Slowed or delayed start of the urinary stream
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Strong and sudden urge to urinate
  • Weak urine stream
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Formation of stones in the bladder
  • Reduced kidney function

The size of the prostate doesn't necessarily determine the severity of symptoms. Some men with only slightly enlarged prostates have significant symptoms. On the other hand, some men with very enlarged prostates have only minor urinary symptoms. In some men, symptoms eventually stabilize and may even improve over time.

If the bladder is permanently damaged, treatment for BPH may be ineffective. When BPH is found in its earlier stages, there is a lower risk of developing such complications.

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