Medical News Today: Can BPH cause kidney failure?

Approximately half of all men with BPH experience symptoms. The condition can cause serious complications, including renal failure.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) affects more than 50 percent of males older than 60, and more than 80 percent of those older than 80.

This article answers many frequently asked questions relating to BPH renal failure.

What is BPH?

Male kidney, bladder and prostate
If urine cannot pass from the body due to BPH, renal failure may occur.

BPH refers to an enlarged prostate that is not caused by cancer.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and penis. The urethra, a tube that transports urine from the bladder to the penis, passes through the middle of the prostate.

The prostate is responsible for producing an alkaline fluid that protects sperm after ejaculation.

This gland doubles in size during puberty and continues to grow throughout adulthood, but at a much slower rate. If the prostate grows too large, it can press on the urethra and interfere with the flow of urine.


What is renal failure?

Renal failure, commonly known as kidney failure, occurs when the kidneys can no longer remove waste from the bloodstream.

BPH can obstruct the flow of urine, and this can contribute to renal failure.

Other causes of renal failure include:

There are five stages of kidney failure. A person with end-stage kidney failure requires continued dialysis or a transplant. Dialysis involves artificially filtering the blood to remove waste products.

How can BPH cause renal failure?

The urethra, which transports urine out of the body, runs through the prostate. When the prostate is enlarged due to BPH, it can compress the urethra and interfere with the flow of urine.

When urine cannot be passed from the body, renal failure can result.

An enlarged prostate may cause:

  • difficulty urinating
  • a low urine flow
  • an inability to completely empty the bladder
  • an inability to pass any urine

Other conditions that can affect urine flow include:

BPH rarely leads to renal failure. However, severe cases of BPH can cause other complications, such as bladder damage, infection, and kidney damage. It is essential to report urinary symptoms to a doctor quickly.


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Signs and symptoms of BPH

man holding groin due to bladder cysts
Symptoms of BPH may include increased urinary frequency, straining while urinating, and an inability to urinate.

People with BPH tend to notice changes in their urinary habits. They often complain of waking up more than once during the night to urinate. This symptom is called nocturia.

Other BPH symptoms include:

  • urinary urgency
  • increased urinary frequency
  • the sensation that the bladder is always full, even after urinating
  • a weak urine stream
  • straining while urinating
  • an inability to urinate
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • dribbling urine

Some may have additional signs and symptoms such as:

  • blood in the urine
  • an infection of the urinary tract
  • a complete inability to urinate, which requires a catheter

Symptoms range from mild to severe, and the severity of symptoms may be unrelated to the size of the prostate.

BPH symptoms may get worse over time, but they can stabilize or even improve.

Signs and symptoms of BPH renal failure

When BPH is responsible for renal failure, people will experience some of the urinary symptoms described above.

They may also notice some of the following indications of renal failure:

  • chest pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
  • shortness of breath
  • reduced urine output

In the later stages of renal failure, symptoms can be life-threatening. They include:

  • confusion
  • seizures
  • coma


Other causes

Some people with the signs and symptoms of BPH may instead have a different condition, such as:

  • a urinary tract infection
  • bladder or kidney stones
  • prostatitis, which is inflammation of the prostate
  • narrowing of the urethra, which is called urethral stricture
  • scarring in the bladder caused by surgery
  • nerve problems in the bladder
  • prostate cancer
  • bladder cancer

The only way to be sure is to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

When to see a doctor

When urinary habits change, a person should seek medical attention. A doctor can check the size of the prostate through the rectum.

A person who cannot urinate or who notices blood in the urine should seek urgent medical attention.

People diagnosed with BPH should receive regular checkups. Having the size of the prostate monitored and reporting any new symptoms can reduce the risk of complications.


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Prevention

To prevent kidney damage, people with BPH should follow the treatment plan developed by their doctor.

This may include taking medications and making lifestyle changes. Severe cases of BPH can be treated with minimally invasive or open surgeries.

Addressing symptoms of BPH early will improve a person’s quality of life and prevent renal failure. It is important to have the size of the prostate checked regularly and to report any new symptoms to a doctor.

Treatment options

whiskey being poured into a glass
Lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol, may help to treat minor symptoms.

Medications for BPH can relax the muscles or prevent the production of hormones that cause the prostate to grow.

If medications do not work, a doctor may recommend removing a section of the prostate with surgery or laser therapy. Treatment is not always necessary, especially when there are no symptoms or when they are mild.

Minor symptoms can be treated with lifestyle changes, including bladder training, exercising, and limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol.

The choice of treatment will depend on a person’s health, symptoms, and the size of their prostate.

When a person has kidney failure, other treatments are necessary to manage complications, such as high blood pressure and fluid retention. An individual with end-stage renal failure will require a kidney transplant or dialysis.


Outlook

Most people with BPH will not develop renal failure, especially if they report symptoms promptly.

BPH symptoms usually improve with treatment. A person may need to take medication continually or receive repeated treatments to prevent symptoms from returning or getting worse.

For people with renal failure, treatment focuses on slowing down damage to the kidneys. In the final stages of the disease, a person will need regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.

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