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Is an Enlarged Prostate, or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, Very Serious?

An enlarged prostate, diagnosed as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is an exceedingly common and typical occurrence in men over the age of 50. In fact, more than half of men older than 50 are expected to develop an enlarged prostate, if they have not already. BPH is not dangerous in and of itself, but it has the potential to lead to painful and serious consequences if left untreated for a prolonged period of time.

At IVC, we offer the latest advancements in nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedures to help our patients overcome their health issues as simply and comfortably as possible. If you struggle with the effects of an enlarged prostate, you may be a good candidate for a new treatment called prostate artery embolization (PAE). Knowing the symptoms of an enlarged prostate and identifying when they require attention is an essential part of successful treatment, and our expert interventional radiologists will help you identify the signs of this all-too-common disease.

Understanding Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

An enlarged prostate is not an uncommon condition since the prostate continues to grow throughout life for most men starting around age 25. Experts are unsure what exactly leads to BPH, but aging and testosterone are known to be two key factors in its development. Those at a higher risk of developing BPH include:

  • Men over the age of 50
  • Men of European descent
  • African American men
  • Those with a family history of prostate issues

Living a healthy lifestyle consisting of a well-rounded diet and a regular exercise routine will lower your chances of developing BPH, but nothing is known to prevent it completely. Despite the myths surrounding BPH, it is not a cancerous condition and does not necessarily lead to cancer. However, some prostate issues can be a sign of prostate cancer and a diagnosis should be sought out at the onset of any symptoms.

Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate

The symptoms of BPH are generally related to the urinary tract and the bladder, as the urethra passes through the prostate. As a prostate enlarges, it applies an increasing amount of pressure to the urethra and the bladder that can have uncomfortable effects. Common symptoms of an enlarged prostate include:

  • Frequent urination
  • A sudden and urgent need to urinate
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Dribbling after urinating
  • A weak stream during urination
  • An inability to empty the bladder

In rare cases, men suffering from BPH may develop more serious side effects that are often the sign of an enlarged prostate that was left untreated and symptoms that were ignored. More serious symptoms include:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • A complete inability to urinate
  • The presence of blood in urine

Regardless of which symptoms you may be experiencing, pursuing a medical diagnosis should always be your first response to experiencing any of the above issues. Diagnosis of BPH and other prostate issues is typically performed using either a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. Men over the age of 50 should plan on scheduling a screening annually to ensure they detect any new symptoms as soon as possible and can treat an enlarged prostate at its onset.

The Potential Complications of an Enlarged Prostate

On its own, the presence of an enlarged prostate should not create any cause for alarm. Leaving any symptoms untreated for a prolonged period can lead to complications that can become very serious, however. Many men accept prostate and urinary issues as an unavoidable symptom of growing older. While this is mostly true, ignoring these symptoms can not only lead to a decreased quality of life but may also cause dangerous complications.

A narrowed urethra caused by an enlarged prostate can force the bladder to work harder to urinate. Over time, the walls of an overworked bladder may begin to thicken, reducing your capacity to store urine and increasing your trips to the restroom. Residual urine that is left in an overworked bladder due to an inability to completely empty it can become infected or lead to bladder stones. Symptoms of bladder stones are much more uncomfortable than frequent bathroom breaks and can include abdominal pain, penis pain, fever and incontinence.

Acute urinary retention (AUR) is another possible complication of untreated BPH characterized by an inability to urinate, even with a full bladder. AUR can be extremely painful and most patients seek treatment before their BPH reaches the point of AUR.

Chronic renal failure occurs when the undrained urine backs up into the kidneys. The kidneys may swell and become infected, creating a very serious and painful condition. Chronic renal failure is not curable and may require a kidney transplant and lifelong medication use to control its symptoms.

While the idea of a prostate exam may make some men nervous or apprehensive, avoiding detection of an enlarged prostate or treatment for any of its symptoms can lead to serious and life-threatening health issues.

Nonsurgical Enlarged Prostate Treatment through PAE

If you have been struggling with the symptoms of BPH or have recently received a diagnosis for the disease, then the experts at IVC are here to help. Our interventional radiologists offer prostate artery embolization (PAE) to help adult men overcome their urinary and prostate issues without resorting to painful surgeries. PAE is minimally invasive, requiring only a small incision in the groin or upper thigh. The entire operation is completed under local anesthesia with sedation, ensuring you remain comfortable and experience no pain throughout the procedure.

During PAE, one of our interventional radiologists passes a catheter through the incision and up the groin, guiding it towards the prostate under x-ray image-guidance. After performing an arteriogram to highlight and distinguish the arteries that feed into the prostate, your interventional radiologist will then embolize, or block up, the feeder arteries using tiny microsphere particles. With the arteries embolized its blood flow restricted, the prostate will gradually shrink over time until it no longer places pressure on the bladder or the urethra.

Professional and Effective BPH Treatment at IVC

If BPH has had a negative impact on your life, then it may be time for you to consider minimally invasive treatment. PAE can restore your ability to live a healthy and active lifestyle, unrestrained by frequent bathroom breaks and the other disruptive symptoms of an enlarged prostate. To learn more about this revolutionary and effective procedure, contact IVC today by calling us at 503-612-0498 to schedule your consultation with one of our interventional radiologists.

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We are announcing that Interventional and Vascular Consultants will be closing as of March 10, 2023.

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Please know that we have greatly valued our relationship with you and wish you the best.


Jason Bauer, MD RVT
Michael Pfister, MD RVT

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