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Types of Medication for Enlarged Prostate

There are two classes of drugs used to treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also called enlarged prostate: alpha blockers and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors.

Alpha Blockers for an Enlarged Prostate:

These drugs relax the muscles of the prostate. This causes an increased flow of urine, which helps relieve some enlarged prostate symptoms. All four of these drugs work equally well but with small differences in their side effects. They begin working almost immediately to provide moderate relief.

Side effects can include lightheadedness, fatigue, stomach or intestinal problems, stuffy nose, headache, dizziness, and tiredness. In rare cases, patients have low blood pressure.

5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitors for an Enlarged Prostate:

These drugs help shrink the enlarged prostate and may prevent further growth. They usually provide modest symptom relief, may help with urinary retention (inability to urinate), and may prevent the need for surgery. However, symptom relief may not occur until after the drug is taken for three to six months.

Side effects can include inability to achieve an erection, decreased sexual desire, and reduced amount of semen. Also, the drugs can change the results of PSA tests, so that test may need to be repeated while you are on the medication. It must also be noted that the FDA is revising labels on several BPH drugs to include a warning that the drugs may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Charles E. Jennings, MD on September 12, 2013

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