Each man has a different tolerance for symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate. If your symptoms are not bothering you greatly -- and you have not developed any urinary complications -- you may choose watchful waiting as your treatment strategy.
This means seeing your doctor once a year -- or sooner if your symptoms change.
By Tom Chiarella
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If you choose watchful waiting in regards to an enlarged prostate, there are things you can do to reduce symptoms:
Make simple changes in your habits, like drinking fewer liquids before bedtime -- and drinking less caffeine and alcohol generally.
Don't take over-the-counter cold and sinus medicines with decongestants, which can make a prostate problem worse.
Watchful waiting is the least invasive treatment for an enlarged prostate. You avoid the risks and costs of medications, procedures, and surgery. For some men, mild BPH symptoms improve with time. If symptoms become worse, it's time to talk to your doctor about treatment.
An Enlarged Prostate and Prescription Drugs
When enlarged prostate symptoms become more bothersome, drugs may help provide relief. Two types of medications are available to treat moderate BPH. Each works differently in the body, and each has its own side effects.
The two classes of drugs for an enlarged prostate are:
Alpha blockers, which relax muscles of the prostate to relieve symptoms.
5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which help shrink the prostate and prevent additional growth.
Men with very enlarged prostates may take both types of drugs, called combination therapy, to reduce the need for surgery. However, men taking combination therapy may experience the side effects of both drugs. Also, the FDA is revising labels on several BPH drugs -- Proscar, Avodart, and Jalyn -- to include a warning that the drugs may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Deciding on Enlarged Prostate Treatment
The choice between watchful waiting and taking medications for an enlarged prostate is something to be discussed with your doctor. Together, you must weigh the risks and benefits of each.
Ask yourself about each treatment option:
How much is my quality of life affected right now?
How much will it improve?
How long will the effects last?
Is there a risk that the treatment will cause problems?