The prostate is a male gland located underneath the bladder and is about the size of a chestnut. In this cut section, you can see that part of the urethra is encased within the prostate gland. As a man ages, the prostate typically enlarges in size in a process called BPH, which means that the gland gets larger without becoming cancerous. The enlarged prostate crowds its anatomical neighbors, particularly the urethra, causing it to narrow.
The narrowed urethra results in several of the symptoms of BPH. Symptoms may include a slowed or delayed start in urination, the need to urinate frequently during the night, difficulty in emptying the bladder, a strong, sudden urge to urinate, and incontinence. Less than half of all men with BPH have symptoms of the disease, or their symptoms are minor and do not restrict their life style. BPH is a normal physiological process of aging.
Treatment options are available and are based on the severity of the symptoms, the extent to which they affect lifestyle, and the presence of other medical conditions. Men with BPH should consult with their physician yearly to monitor the progression of the symptoms and decide the best course of treatment as needed.
Review Date 9/7/2021
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.