Benign prostate enlargement

Benign prostate enlargement (BPE) is the term for an enlarged prostate. It’s a condition that can affect how you pass urine (pee). BPE is common in men aged over 50. It is not a cancer and it isn't usually a serious threat to health.

Symptoms of benign prostate enlargement

The prostate is a small gland, in the pelvis, between the penis and bladder.

If the prostate becomes enlarged, it can put pressure on the bladder and urethra. The urethra is the tube through which urine passes.

This can affect how you pee and may cause:  

  • difficulty starting to pee
  • a frequent need to pee
  • difficulty fully emptying your bladder
  • difficulty stopping at the end of peeing (with leaking of pee)

This group of symptoms is now described as ‘lower urinary tract symptoms’ (LUTS). In some men, the symptoms are mild and don't need treatment. In others, they can cause problems.

Many men worry that having an enlarged prostate means they have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. This isn't the case.

The risk of prostate cancer is no greater for men with an enlarged prostate than it is for men without an enlarged prostate.

Causes of benign prostate enlargement

The cause of prostate enlargement is unknown. BPE is believed to be linked to hormonal changes as a man gets older.

The balance of hormones in your body changes as you get older and this may cause your prostate gland to grow.

Diagnosing benign prostate enlargement

You might have several different tests to find out what could be causing your symptoms, as other conditions (apart from BPE) can cause LUTS.

Your GP may do some of these tests, like a urine test. Others tests may need to be carried out at a hospital.

Treating benign prostate enlargement

Treatment for an enlarged prostate will depend on the severity of your symptoms.

If you have mild symptoms, you won't usually need immediate treatment but you'll have regular prostate check-ups.

You'll probably also be advised to make lifestyle changes, such as:

Medication to reduce the size of the prostate and relax your bladder may be recommended to treat moderate to severe symptoms of BPE.

Surgery is usually only considered if your symptoms of BPE are more severe, or if they have failed to respond to medication.

Complications of prostate enlargement

Benign prostate enlargement can sometimes lead to complications such as:

Acute urinary retention (AUR) is the sudden inability to pass any urine.

Symptoms of AUR include:

  • suddenly not being able to pee at all 
  • severe lower abdominal pain
  • swelling of the bladder that you can feel with your hands

Go immediately to your nearest emergency department if you experience the symptoms of AUR.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.