Dr Ian Smith - Urological Surgeon

BSc (Med) MBBS FRACS (Urol)


Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small but important gland (organ) in the male reproductive system. The main role of the prostate is to make fluid that protects and gives nutrients to sperm. The prostate makes about one third of the fluid that is ejaculated (released) from the penis at orgasm (sexual climax).


Where is the prostate?

In young men the prostate is about the size of a walnut, but it gets bigger with age. The prostate sits underneath the bladder, and surrounds the top part of the urethra. Urine passes through the urethra on its way from the bladder to the penis.


How does the prostate gland change with age?

The male sex hormone testosterone makes the prostate grow in size. As men get older, the prostate grows larger. At puberty, testosterone levels in boys start to increase and the prostate grows to about eight times its size. It continues to grow, doubling in size between the ages of 21 and 50 years, and almost doubles again in size between the ages of 50 and 80 years. The reasons for this ongoing growth are not fully understood.


What is BPH?

BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) is the most common prostate disease. BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement or growth of the prostate gland. As the prostate surrounds the top part of the urethra, enlargement of the prostate makes the urethra narrower and puts pressure on the base of the bladder. Narrowing of the urethra can affect the passing of urine in a number of ways.

BPH is not usually life-threatening but symptoms can have a major effect on quality of life.


How common is BPH?

BPH is more common in older men, usually starting after 40 years of age; it affects nearly all men at some time in their lives. Some men do not have any symptoms even though their prostate has grown larger. BPH usually becomes more of a problem over time, with symptoms getting worse if they are not treated