Benign prostatic hyperplasia

Last updated: September 11, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a nonneoplastic glandular and stromal hyperplasia of the transition zone of the prostate. It is a common disorder, affecting ∼ 40% of the male population by the age of 50 years. Although the underlying etiology of BPH has not been conclusively established, sex hormones likely play a key role. BPH typically manifests as lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), which includes features of bladder irritation (urinary frequency, urgency, urge incontinence), features of bladder outlet obstruction (urinary hesitancy, straining to urinate, sensation of incomplete voiding), and hematuria. The initial workup comprises standardized questionnaires to assess symptom severity, physical examination including digital rectal examination (DRE), urinalysis, a voiding diary, and, in select patients, serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) analysis. DRE may reveal a smooth, enlarged, nontender, and firm prostate. Imaging and urodynamic studies are indicated in patients with features of complicated LUTS and to guide management. Behavioral modifications (e.g., fluid restriction at night, bladder training) are advised in all patients with LUTS caused by BPH and may be the only management required in patients with minimal symptoms. Pharmacotherapy, such as alpha blockers, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs), and parasympatholytics, for BPH is indicated in patients with bothersome symptoms; the choice of agent depends on the size of the prostate and the predominant symptoms. Surgery, e.g., transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), is indicated in patients with severely symptomatic BPH, those with complications due to BPH (e.g., urinary retention, recurrent UTIs, hydroureteronephrosis), and those who experience intolerable adverse effects with pharmacotherapy. In patients with BPH, the risk of developing prostate cancer is not higher than that of the general male population; therefore, standard PSA screening protocol can be followed. TURP does not reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer and, following the procedure, BPH recurs in ∼ 7% of men.

Definitiontoggle arrow icon

Epidemiologytoggle arrow icon

Prevalence of BPH increases with age (present in ∼ 50% of men > 50 years and more than 80% of men > 80 years). [1]

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Etiologytoggle arrow icon

The etiology is not fully understood. The following factors play a role in prostatic hyperplasia and growth:

BPH is not a risk factor for the development of prostate cancer.

Pathophysiologytoggle arrow icon

Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

BPH typically manifests with features of uncomplicated lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), which is a nonspecific term that encompasses symptoms of bladder outlet obstruction (BOO) and bladder irritation (overactive bladder or OAB).

To remember the symptoms of BPH, think “FUNWISE”: Frequency, Urgency, Nocturia, Weak stream /hesitancy, Intermittent stream, Straining to urinate, and Emptying (not emptying completely, terminal dribbling).

Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon

Approach [8][11]

Suspect BPH in patients ≥ 45 years of age with uncomplicated LUTS. See “Diagnostic approach to suspected prostate cancer” if findings from the patient's history, the examination, or diagnostics increase suspicion for prostate cancer.

Initial assessment [8][11]

History and examination

Voiding diary

  • All patients should be instructed to maintain a voiding diary.
  • Includes a urinary frequency-volume chart and additional information
  • Most useful for patients with predominantly storage symptoms, such as nocturia [12]

Assess for features of complicated LUTS [11]

Urology referral is advised for patients with clinical features of complicated LUTS, as these can signify a primary bladder disorder and/or cancer.Suspect prostate cancer in patients with clinical features of complicated LUTS, those experiencing constitutional symptoms such as weight loss or bone pain (which may suggest bone metastases), and those with a family history of prostate cancer or BRCA2 mutation. [13]

Symptom severity

Assess the severity of LUTS with a validated self-administered questionnaire to guide management and evaluate response to therapy. There are several symptom score questionnaires. The following are some of the most widely used.

  • International prostate symptom score (IPSS)
    • A scoring system based on the presence and severity of seven BPH symptoms in the past 30 days
    • IPSS also estimates the effect of LUTS on the quality of life.
    • Based on the final scores, BPH is graded as follows:
      • 0–7 points: mild symptoms
      • 8–19 points: moderate symptoms
      • 20–35 points: severe symptoms
  • American urological association symptom index for BPH (AUA-SI): a similar questionnaire to IPSS but does not assess the impact of LUTS severity on quality of life [14]

Laboratory studies [11][12]


Serum PSA level

Serum PSA levels are not measured routinely in patients with LUTS.

A low PSA level does not rule out prostate cancer!

Renal function tests [8][12]

  • Indications (not routinely required)
    • Clinical suspicion of renal impairment
    • Baseline levels before surgical intervention for LUTS
  • Findings: typically normal in patients with uncomplicated BPH

Urodynamic studies [8][11][18]

Urodynamic studies can help identify the predominant type of LUTS (i.e., voiding LUTS or storage LUTS). [19]

Postvoid residual (PVR) volume

PVR is a measure of urinary retention that can be assessed using a bladder scanner, abdominal ultrasound, or direct catheterization.

PVR volume measurement using a bladder scanner is a simple and quick bedside test that can be performed by nursing staff or a physician in the clinic or in the office.

Uroflowmetry [18][20]

  • Indications [8][18]
    • Consider in all patients with suspected BOO.
    • Baseline reading before surgical or medical management to assess response to therapy
  • Findings: Low maximum flow rate (Qmax) can be caused by BOO, detrusor underactivity, or an underfilled bladder. [12]

Additional studies

Consider the following in patients with BOO caused by BPH in whom conservative treatment has failed to improve symptoms.

  • Pressure-flow studies and/or video urodynamic studies: to confirm the presence of urodynamic obstruction and determine the level of obstruction [20]
  • Cystometry: can indicate OAB [20]

Imaging [19][21]

Imaging in patients with LUTS attributable to BPH is indicated to assess prostate size and morphology, if the results may affect treatment selection. Imaging may also be considered to rule out differential diagnoses or to assess for complications.


Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) [21][23]

TRUS is not required for the initial evaluation of LUTS attributable to BPH. [19]

  • Indications
  • Supportive findings of BPH: heteroechoic enlargement of the periurethral (transition) zones of the prostate

MRI and CT pelvis [13][18]

  • Commonly used for preprocedural assessment of prostate volume and localization of enlarged tissue
  • MRI can potentially differentiate BPH from prostate cancer. [24][25]

Differential diagnosestoggle arrow icon

Reference: [8]

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

Treatmenttoggle arrow icon

Approach [11]

Treatment selection should be guided by symptom severity (as determined by the AUA-SI or IPSS score) and the size of the prostate (e.g., on imaging or as estimated using serum PSA levels).

Patients with acute urinary retention require urgent bladder catheterization.

Nonpharmacological therapy [11][12]

Nonpharmacological measures should be advised to all patients with LUTS attributable to BPH. Watchful waiting (active surveillance) can be considered as the sole management of LUTS causing mild to moderate symptoms in a patient with no features of complicated LUTS.

  • Review of medications [26]
  • Dietary advice
    • Avoid excessive fluid intake before leaving the house and before bedtime.
    • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
    • For polyuria: Reduce overall fluid intake.
  • Education about bladder emptying techniques, such as:

Nonpharmacological therapy with watchful waiting may be sufficient management for patients with mild to moderate symptoms and no features of complicated LUTS. [12]

Pharmacological therapy [11]

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is the gold standard treatment of BPH. However, pharmacotherapy can delay or even prevent the need to undergo surgery and should be considered as a first-line option in all patients with uncomplicated bothersome LUTS attributable to BPH.

General considerations

  • Pharmacological therapy is indicated in patients with moderate to severe LUTS attributable to BPH.
  • The choice of medication depends on the predominant symptoms, prostate size, and serum PSA levels (see “Preferred first-line options” below).
  • Consider serum PSA level testing or a TRUS prior to initiation of pharmacotherapy if treatment selection is based on prostate size or volume. [12]
  • Symptomatic relief can be expected within weeks (with alpha blockers) or months (with 5-ARIs) after treatment initiation. [12]
  • Life-long medication is typically required unless intolerable adverse effects develop or the patient undergoes surgery for BPH.

Overview of medications for BPH

Pharmacotherapy for BPH [11][12]
Agent Description Agents
Alpha blockers
5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs)
  • Finasteride
  • Dutasteride
Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors

5-ARIs are also used in the management of androgenetic alopecia in males

Adverse effects of alpha blockers include orthostatic hypotension (relevant for elderly patients who are prone to falls) and intraoperative floppy iris syndrome (relevant for patients who are due to undergo cataract surgery). [12]
Any elevation in serum PSA levels in patients receiving 5-ARI therapy should increase suspicion for prostate cancer.

Preferred first-line options [11][12]

Indications Preferred agent
LUTS predominantly caused by BOO Small prostate (< 40 mL) and/or serum PSA < 1.5 ng/mL Alpha blocker [8]
Large prostate (> 40 mL) and/or serum PSA > 1.5 ng/mL 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs) [27]
Severe symptoms or an inadequate response to monotherapy Combination therapy: alpha blocker PLUS a 5-ARI
LUTS predominantly caused by OAB Antimuscarinic (see also “Urge incontinence”)
LUTS caused by mixed BOO and OAB An alpha blocker PLUS an antimuscarinic
LUTS associated with erectile dysfunction Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitor [12]

Antimuscarinics should be used with caution in patients with a PVR volume > 250 mL as they can decrease bladder strength and potentially lead to urinary retention. [11][12]

Surgical therapy

While TURP is the gold standard therapy for BPH, other techniques may be preferred depending on prostate volume as well as anesthesia and surgical risks.

Indications [21]

  • Insufficient improvement with pharmacological therapy
  • Development of intolerable complications on pharmacotherapy
  • BPH that is causing complications (see “Complications of BPH”)

Transurethral resection of the prostate [21]

The risk of developing prostate cancer after TURP remains the same as that of the general male population, as the peripheral zone (where prostate cancer most commonly develops) is left intact. Normal PSA screening protocols should be followed.

Other surgical treatment options [21]

Retrograde ejaculation is a common complication of prostate surgery.

Pathologytoggle arrow icon

Complicationstoggle arrow icon

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

Referencestoggle arrow icon

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