May 22, 2007 -- Medications commonly used to treat erection problems in men may also relieve the bothersome urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland, researchers say.
Studies on the topic were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Anaheim, Calif.
"Before, we looked at these two conditions as two different diseases," says Kevin McVary, MD, professor of urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who moderated a press briefing.
But in the past three or four years, he says, the thinking among urologists has changed.
Sexual performance in men seems to decline as their prostate enlargement becomes more severe, experts have begun to notice. Doctors also notice that men with milder prostate problems often have less erectile dysfunction (ED) than do those with moderate or severely enlarged prostates and urinary symptoms.
Prostate problems and ED problems both tend to increase with age. About 31% of men aged 50 to 59 have an enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH); 44% of those 70 and older have an enlarged prostate, according to the National Institutes of Health. As the gland enlarges, it constricts the urine-carrying tube called the urethra, making it difficult to empty the bladder.
Common symptoms of BPH include weak urine stream, leaking or dribbling, feeling that the bladder hasn't emptied completely after voiding, and more frequent urination.
Medications are prescribed to relieve the symptoms. Some medications work by relaxing the muscles at the neck of the bladder and prostate; others inhibit a hormone that contributes to the growth of the gland.
Erectile dysfunction, defined as an inability to get or keep an erection, is experienced by 20% to 46% of men aged 40 to 69, according to the NIH. Medications to treat erection problems help increase blood flow to the penis when a man is sexually stimulated.
A once-a-day dose of Cialis helped men with erectile dysfunction and moderate to severe urinary tract symptoms due to an enlarged prostate improve sexual functioning, says Marc Gittelman, MD, a urologist in Aventura, Fla., and a study researcher.