A medical history will give clues to conditions that can mimic BPH, such as possible stricture, bladder cancer or stones, or abnormal bladder function (problems with holding or emptying urine) due to a neurologic disorder (neurogenic bladder). Strictures can result from urethral damage caused by prior trauma, instrumentation (for example, catheter insertion), or an infection, such as gonorrhea. Bladder cancer is suspected if there is a history of blood in the urine.
Pain in the penis or bladder area may indicate bladder stones or infection. A neurogenic bladder is suggested when an individual has diabetes or a neurologic disease such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, or describes a recent deterioration in sexual function. A thorough medical history should also include questions about previous urinary tract infections or prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate that may cause pain in to lower back and the area between the scrotum and rectum, chills, fever, and general malaise), and any worsening of urinary symptoms when taking cold or sinus drugs. The physician will also ask whether any over-the-counter or prescription medications are being taken, because certain varieties can make voiding symptoms worse in men with BPH.
The physical examination may begin with the doctor observing urination to completion to detect any urinary irregularities. The doctor will manually examine the lower abdomen to check for the presence of a mass, which may indicate an enlarged bladder due to retained urine. In addition, a digital rectal exam (DRE) which allows the physician to assess the size, shape, and consistency of the prostate, is essential for proper diagnosis. This important examination involves the insertion of a gloved finger into the rectum, but is only mildly uncomfortable. The detection of hard or firm areas in the prostate raises the suspicion of prostate cancer. If the history suggests possible neurologic disease, the physical may also include an examination for neurological abnormalities that indicate the urinary symptoms result from a neurogenic bladder.
A urinalysis, which is obtained in all patients with symptoms of BPH, may be the only laboratory test if symptoms are mild and no other abnormalities are suspected from the medical history and physical examination. A urine culture is added if a urinary infection is suspected. With more severe chronic symptoms of BPH, blood creatinine of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and hemoglobin are measured to rule out kidney damage and anemia. Measuring prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood to screen for prostate cancer is recommended as well as the DRE. PSA testing alone cannot determine whether symptoms are due to BPH or prostate cancer because both conditions can elevate PSA levels.