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Home » Men's healthcare » Enlarged prostate symptoms are distressing: here’s what you can do about it

Dr Clare Bent MBBCh FRCR

Consultant Interventional Radiologist, University Hospitals Dorset

Benign prostatic hyperplasia — or an enlarged prostate — is not cancer, but its symptoms can be severely life-limiting. Thankfully, a safe treatment is available.

The likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate — or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — increases with age. More than 50% of all men in their sixties and as many as 90% aged between 70 and 89 will have some symptoms of BPH.

Symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia

BPH is not cancer and doesn’t raise your risk of developing prostate cancer. However, the symptoms can significantly change the way you live; impacting daily activities, hobbies and sleeping patterns and altering your enjoyment of life.

Normally, the prostate gland is the size of a walnut; but, when it gets bigger, it can compress the urethra (tube where urine passes). The bladder wall then needs to squeeze harder to remove the urine, becoming thicker and irritable; it can begin to contract even when it contains only a small amount of urine.

People with BPH may therefore need to urinate more frequently, especially at night. They may also be unable to urinate; strain while urinating; have a weak urine stream; have a urine stream that starts and stops; experience dribbling at the end of urinating; or be unable to empty their bladder.

PAE is usually performed as an outpatient procedure,
and no general anaesthesia is required.

Prostatic artery embolisation: a safe treatment for BPH

While BPH is common, it shouldn’t be ignored. “Left untreated, it could lead to health complications such as kidney stones, recurrent infections, lack of bladder control and complete bladder outlet obstruction or blockage,” says Clare Bent.

“If your healthcare provider determines that you have benign prostatic hyperplasia, it’s a good idea to discuss the various treatment options available, including prostatic artery embolisation (PAE).” This is a safe treatment option and, like other minimally invasive procedures, has significant advantages over conventional surgical options.

Prostatic artery embolisation process and benefits

With PAE, a tiny incision is made in your groin or wrist to gain access to your arterial system. A catheter is then guided to the vessels that supply blood to your prostate. Embolic material (particles about the size of a grain of sand) is injected through the catheter and into these blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to your prostate. This causes it to shrink, thereby improving urinary symptoms.

“PAE is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, and no general anaesthesia is required,” explains Clare Bent. “During the procedure, you’re given a mild sedative but remain awake. A year after PAE, average prostate size is seen to shrink by approximately 30%, easing urinary symptoms, sparing erectile function and increasing quality of life.”

By ensuring men are aware of all treatment options available, they can make informed and empowered health decisions.

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