Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



An enlarged prostate can make it more difficult to urinate. Not all men who have an enlarged prostate experience symptoms. However, about one-fourth of all men in the United States report some trouble urinating.

At first, symptoms may be mild because the bladder muscle is able to compensate for the pressure from the enlarged prostate on the urethra.

The pressure of the prostate on the urethra causes an interrupted or weak stream of urine. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty starting to urinate

  • Continuing to dribble after urination

  • A feeling that you have not completely emptied your bladder

The severity of these problems depends on how much pressure the prostate is putting on the urethra.

Another set of symptoms happens when the urine that collects in the bladder causes irritation. These symptoms include:

  • Painful urination

  • A frequent need to empty the bladder, especially at night

  • A feeling of urgency that accompanies the sensation to urinate

  • Loss of bladder control (incontinence)

Potentially serious complications can occur if the bladder does not empty completely. Urine that does not exit the bladder can lead to the growth of bacteria, which can cause frequent urinary tract infections. Also, urinary stones can form in the bladder lining due to an accumulation of debris and chemicals. Broken blood vessels can cause blood in the urine, often because of torn or enlarged veins on the inner surface of the prostate. Blood in the urine also can be caused by the sudden stretching of the bladder wall. If left untreated, urine retained in the bladder can back up into the kidneys, which can cause kidney failure over time.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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