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BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for men who have an enlarged prostate. It tells you about alpha-blockers, a treatment used for an enlarged prostate. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

Yes. Taking an alpha-blocker can help if you have moderate or severe symptoms of an enlarged prostate (a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH for short). But alpha-blockers do not stop the long-term problems that BPH can cause, such as suddenly being unable to pass urine. (See Complications of an enlarged prostate for more information.)

If this drug is going to help you, your symptoms should get better within two to three weeks.

What are they?

Alpha-blockers are normally used to treat high blood pressure. Like BPH, high blood pressure is a common problem that many people don't even know they have. And like BPH, it gets worse with age. Doctors think that about a third of men being treated for BPH also have high blood pressure. [28] So an alpha-blocker can treat both problems at the same time. But alpha-blockers can help your symptoms of BPH even if you don't have high blood pressure.

There are many different types of alpha-blockers. Here's a list of some of the ones used to treat BPH. We've listed each drug's generic name (followed by its brand name):

Most of these drugs are only available on prescription from your doctor. However, you can buy tamsulosin from a pharmacy. The brand name is Flomax Relief. You’ll have to answer questions from the pharmacist to check that the drug is right for you, and you’ll still need to see a GP if you want to take this treatment for more than a few weeks.

You can also get a drug called Combodart, which is a capsule that contains tamsulosin and a drug called dutasteride (a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor).

Tamsulosin was the first alpha-blocker made specifically to treat BPH. It's called a 'selective' alpha-blocker because it's designed to affect your prostate more than your blood pressure. Because of this, it has fewer side effects than the older alpha-blockers do. Alfuzosin is another drug that works this way.

Your doctor will want to give you the lowest dose that relieves your symptoms. This way, you'll have as few side effects as possible. [29] To make sure you're getting the right dose, your doctor may need to see you quite often when you first start taking this drug.

How can they help?

Alpha-blockers can improve your symptoms. [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [33] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] This may mean:

  • You need to urinate less often

  • You don't have to wait so long before your urine starts to flow

  • Your flow of urine is stronger.

Last Updated: October 08, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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