Some of the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia are such that those afflicted with the condition may notice them on their own. Others are more difficult to recognize, and require a doctors expertise to discern. Once BPH is suspected or confirmed, the patient is usually sent to a urologist for further examination. There are many tests that urologists use to diagnose conditions, ranging from simple physical examination to complicated laboratory blood or urine testing.
Digital rectal examinations are the easiest to administer, and are the starting point for most doctors. The doctor dons surgical gloves and places one finger inside the rectum, feeling the prostate on the other side of the rectal wall for abnormalities.
Prostate specific antigen blood tests are used to determine if symptoms are a result of prostate cancer. Prostate specific antigen is a protein that is made inside the prostate, and if the subject has prostate cancer, its levels become elevated in the bloodstream. The FDA has approved the PSA test, as long as used along with a digital rectal exam. The methods of PSA testing are relatively new, and there are many unanswered questions regarding the test.
All of the risks behind PSA testing are still unknown, and PSA testing as well as ultrasound testing both have a high chance of providing false results, identifying tumors that are not related to benign prostatic hyperplasia or even medically notable. False results given by PSA tests could possibly lead to unnecessary surgery, putting patients at risk with little potential of benefit.
Another relatively unobtrusive method of scanning the prostate is rectal ultrasound. An ultrasound probe is placed in the rectum, and used to emit sound waves that echo throughout the body. These echoes are analyzed, and their movements create a picture of the inside of the body. Using this method, doctors can determine if the prostate has developed tumors or any unusual growths.
Considering that disruption of proper urinary flow is one of the most common symptoms of BPH, it is no surprise that there is a test that specifically monitors improper urinary flow. Basically, the patient urinates into a device that measures output, allowing doctors to chart flow strength and determine if the patient seems to be suffering from BPH.
X-rays can also be taken of the urinary tract, but special techniques must be used to make the soft tissue of tumors or obstructive material visual. A dye is injected into a vein, and then the x-ray photographs are taken. The dye illuminates the urine in the urinary system, and allows doctors to see obstructions. This type of x-ray procedure is called an intravenous pyelogram.
To allow direct pictures to be taken of the bladder and urethra, a camera can actually be inserted into the penis. Thankfully, a numbing agent is used to minimize the discomfort, but the procedure can still be quite unsettling. The cystoscope is a tube that has a lense and fiber optic lighting, and allows the doctor to directly visually examine the size of the prostate gland and the presence and severity of any tumors or obstructions.
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