Men who have BPH with symptoms usually need some kind of treatment at some time. However, a number of recent studies have questioned the need for early treatment when the gland is just mildly enlarged. These studies report that early treatment may not be needed because the symptoms of BPH clear up without treatment in as many as one-third of all mild cases. Instead of immediate treatment, they suggest regular checkups to watch for early problems. If the condition begins to pose a danger to the patient’s health or causes a major inconvenience to him, treatment is usually recommended.
Since BPH may cause urinary tract infections, a doctor will usually clear up any infection with antibiotics before treating the BPH itself. Although the need for treatment is not usually urgent, doctors generally advise going ahead with treatment once the problems become bothersome or present a health risk.
The following section describes the types of treatment that are most commonly used for BPH.
Over the years, researchers have tried to find a way to shrink or at least stop the growth of the prostate without using surgery. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four drugs to relieve common symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
Finasteride (marketed under the name Proscar), FDA-approved in 1992, inhibits production of the hormone DHT, which is involved with prostate enlargement. Its use can actually shrink the prostate in some men.
FDA also approved the drugs terazosin (marketed as Hytrin) in 1993, doxazosin (marketed as Cardura) in 1995, and tamsulosin (marketed as Flomax) in 1997 for the treatment of BPH. All three drugs act by relaxing the smooth muscle of the prostate and bladder neck to improve urine flow and to reduce bladder outlet obstruction. Terazosin, doxazosin, and tamsulosin belong to the class of drugs known as alpha blockers. Terazosin and doxazosin were developed first to treat high blood pressure. Tamsulosin is the first alpha blocker developed specifically to treat BPH.
NIDDK’s Medical Therapy of Prostatic Symptoms (MTOPS) Trial recently found that using finasteride and doxazosin together is more effective than either drug alone to relieve symptoms and prevent BPH progression. The two-drug regi