]]>Benign prostatic hyperplasia]]> (BPH) is an enlargement of the prostate gland that is common in men older than 50. An enlarged prostate can cause a frequent and urgent need to urinate, dribbling after urination, and a weak urine stream. Standard treatment for BPH involves a progression from watchful waiting (close monitoring), to medications that shrink or relax the prostate, to surgery to remove part or all of the prostate.

In an article published in the January 6, 2007 British Medical Journal , researchers compared the effectiveness of standard treatment for lower urinary tract symptoms against standard care plus self-management. They found that men who were educated to make specific behavioral and lifestyle changes were significantly less likely to require drug therapy or surgery, and had less severe symptoms than men who had standard care only.

About the Study

The researchers recruited 140 men, ages 40 years and older, with symptomatic BPH. Sixty-seven men received standard care, which began with watchful waiting and progressed to medications and/or surgery as needed. The remaining 73 men received standard care, and also participated in a self-management program in which they learned about BPH and and received advice on lifestyle and behavioral changes to manage their symptoms. Physicians reevaluated the study participants three, six, and 12 months after the start of the study to assess the severity of symptoms and to determine whether progression to medication or surgery was necessary.

At three, six, and 12 months, men who had received standard care alone were significantly more likely to have had a notable increase in symptom severity or to have progressed to medication or surgery, compared to men who participated in standard care and self-management. Men in the self-management group had significantly lower symptom severity at all points in the study.

This study is limited by its small size.

How Does This Affect You?

This study found that men with symptomatic BPH who were taught self-management strategies had significantly more success controlling their symptoms and delaying or avoiding the use of medication and/or surgery than men who received only standard care.

BPH is very common in men older than 50. And though it is not a serious medical condition, it can cause symptoms that negatively affect quality of life. Medications and surgery can help, but these treatments may lead to complications and side effects of their own, including ]]>impotence]]> .

If you are diagnosed with BPH, talk with your doctor about changes you can make to help reduce your symptoms. As this study showed, relatively simple lifestyle and behavioral changes such as limiting fluid intake, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and retraining the bladder can help control symptoms.