Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a progressive disease (non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate) that typically affects men by the time they’ve hit 70 years of age. According to renowned urologist Dr. Stephen Richardson, many men “begin to develop symptoms in their 50s and occasionally some in their 40s” as well. It’s more common than prostate cancer, and it’s said that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson even suffered from it.
Up until recently the only treatment options available were either invasive or had side effects, but a new breakthrough non-invasive office procedure called UroLift was approved by the FDA last year. Urologist and patient, Dr. Stephen Richardson was kind enough to join me for an interview this week to discuss BPH, the most common symptoms men face with the disease, and UroLift which can be done in less than an hour and has very little downtime.
Candace Rose: What is BPH, and how do men know they have it?
Dr. Stephen Richardson: “BPH is a technical term that stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia. To put it into layman’s terms, it means an enlarged prostate. It is something that is almost inevitable if we live long enough. By the time we’re 70 years of age, men will be experiencing BPH symptoms about 90% of the time. Many begin to develop symptoms in their 50s and occasionally some in their 40s.
The symptoms are frequency of urination, urgency and also getting up several times a night. That particular symptom can have a significant affect on quality of life in that the patients are sleep deprived, they lose productivity during the day. They sometimes get depressed. In the worst scenario the bladder may become so damaged that even after the obstruction is relieved, the bladder doesn’t function well. The worst possible scenario, patients can actually go into renal failure with longterm BPH.
These symptoms are caused by the prostate enlarging and in doing so it starts to squeeze off the urethral tube and that obstructs the flow of urine.
Once the symptoms become more advanced, then they really should talk to a doctor, especially since we now have relatively non-invasive ways of treating this disease.
Candace Rose: What were some of the treatment options that were available up until recently?
Dr. Stephen Richardson: “Well, when I first started practicing urology in the late 70s, we only had one real option and that was either to open the abdomen and remove the prostate surgically, or to go up through the urethra with a specialized scope and scrape the prostatic tissue out from the inside. These are both fairly invasive procedures and had some significant side effects.
We have developed some medications over the years that are helpful, but these also have side effects, most of which are sexual side effects. A lot of men are either unwilling to go on the medications or want to get off of them once they’ve had the complications.
We’ve had a couple of office based procedures but they have not been as successful as we had hoped – the microwave and needle ablation.
This new procedure which has just been okayed by the FDA really is a breakthrough. I have not only been involved with the development of this device, but I actually now am a patient. I’ve had my own BPH problem treated with the UroLift procedure.”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us more about the new UroLift procedure?
Dr. Stephen Richardson: “It has several major advantages – first of all, it’s an office procedure, so it can be done under local anesthesia. It can be done over a lunch hour, the procedure takes less than an hour. The effects of symptom relief are almost immediate and there is very little downtime. When I underwent the procedure, I worked eight hours the next day.
The other advantage is that it’s been extensively studied before it was okayed by the FDA last year. So far, it has not demonstrated any sexual dysfunction side effects with this procedure. It’s far more attractive to the male population, obviously.”
Candace Rose: Is this procedure typically covered by insurance?
Dr. Stephen Richardson: “Well, it’s covered by Medicare which is of course a huge step since so many of the patients would be in the Medicare age group. Also, a number of insurance companies have also covered it, but it’s kind of spotty on a state by state or region by region basis. There are some areas where people are not covered. It’s important for the patient to discuss with the doctor and their insurance companies if they contemplate this form of therapy.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information, Dr. Richardson?
Dr. Stephen Richardson: “I have a website which I can give to you, and that website is RealBPHRelief.com.”