Alpha-blockers help treat
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) by relaxing smooth
muscle tissue found in the prostate and the bladder neck. This allows urine to
flow out of the bladder more easily.
These medicines usually are
taken by mouth once or twice a day.
These medicines often are used by men
who have moderate and bothersome symptoms of prostate enlargement and who want
more than home treatment for their symptoms.
Many BPH symptoms improve with alpha-blockers.1 For improving symptoms and urine flow, taking these medicines works better than taking no medicine. Men may have about a 4-point reduction in their American Urological Association (AUA) symptom index score.2
Symptoms typically improve in 2 to 3 weeks.
Using a combination of an alpha-blocker with a
5-alpha reductase inhibitor long-term may help your symptoms more than either medicine
Side effects vary with the medicine and
the individual. Common minor side effects of alpha-blockers include:
Alpha-blockers may cause ejaculation of
semen into the bladder (retrograde ejaculation)
instead of out through the penis. This is not harmful.
effects go away when the medicine is stopped.
See Drug Reference
for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
If you plan surgery for cataracts, make sure your doctors know that you take alpha-blockers. Some of these medicines have been linked to a problem called intra-operative floppy iris syndrome (IFIS).
Fewer side effects, especially low blood
pressure when standing up suddenly, may occur if the drug is taken at
Medicines used to treat
erection problems, such as sildenafil (Viagra),
vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis), may make dizziness or lightheadedness worse.
Alpha-blockers are sometimes used to treat high blood
pressure too. But for some people, an alpha-blocker does not help with their
high blood pressure or is not a good choice for other reasons. So even if you
are taking an alpha-blocker for your BPH symptoms, you may have to take another
medicine to control your high blood pressure.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
AUA Practice Guidelines Committee (2010). AUA guideline on management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Chapter 1: Guideline on the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Available online: http://www.auanet.org/content/guidelines-and-quality-care/clinical-guidelines.cfm?sub=bph.
McNicholas T, Kirby R (2011). Benign prostatic hyperplasia, search date July 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Roehrborn CG, et al. (2008). The effects of
dutasteride, tamsulosin and combination therapy on lower urinary tract symptoms
in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatic enlargement: 2-year
results from the CombAT study. Journal of Urology,
March 5, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& J. Curtis Nickel, MD, FRCSC - Urology
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