It's not cancerous, but an enlarged prostate (BPH) can be uncomfortable for the more than 50 million men who have it. Now a new laser procedure can help treat some men who suffer from this common problem.
"The normal prostate is about the size of a walnut, but it can grow very large - even as big as a baseball," said George Burkholder, M.D., a board-certified urologist with Urology San Antonio.
As the prostate enlarges, the layer of tissue surrounding it stops it from expanding, causing the gland to press against the urethra like a clamp on a garden hose. The bladder wall becomes thicker and irritable. The bladder begins to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, causing more frequent urination.
While there is no cure for BPH, there are numerous standard treatment options including drug therapy, microwave procedures and surgical options.
"The laser prostatectomy is the first significant advance in the treatment of BPH in fifty years, this new laser technique greatly decreases the risk of serious complications from the surgery, and allows patients to be immediately free of symptoms and quickly return to work," he said.
The procedure involves feeding a laser tip through the urethra into the prostate using a thin tube. The laser energy, which is nothing more than high intense light source, vaporizes the excess tissue. The procedure spares the patient from painful surgery that can potentially cause incontinence and excessive bleeding. Since there's no swelling, many patients do not even go home with a catheter.
"You're shining a light on the prostatic tissue, which vaporizes the tissue, virtually leaving it bloodless," Burkholder said. "In about fifty percent of men, we can get the catheter out the same day and they can go home without an over-night stay."
Since the prostate continually grows over a man's lifetime, the tissue can grow back. As many as 90% of men will have an enlarged prostate by the time they reach their seventies, but not all of them will need treatment.