By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, February/March 2004.
A minute injection of Botox — the very same substance commonly used to abate frown lines and wrinkles — may ease benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) in older men. BPH, a noncancerous enlarged prostate, affects more than 50 percent of men over 60 and 80 percent of men by age 80. As the prostate increases, it impinges on and narrows the urethra, causing difficult and painful urination as well as increased frequency, urgency or a sense of incompleteness. About 50 percent of men with BPH experience these symptoms and surgery can cause serious side effects, including compromised sexual function and incontinence.
Botox (botulinum toxin) — produced from the same food-borne bacterium that causes potentially lethal botulism — blocks chemical messages between nerves and muscles, in effect paralyzing the muscles temporarily and smoothing the skin. In a small, controlled study, 15 men with BPH were injected behind the scrotum with botulinum toxin and 15 other BPH subjects, unknowingly serving as the control group, were injected with saline. At the two-month check-up, 13 of the 15 Botox subjects reported fewer urination problems, compared with only three of the men in the control group. Scores measuring BPH severity dropped 65 percent in the Botox group versus no change in the control group, and improvements were reported for up to one year. Experts are cautiously optimistic, calling for more research and larger studies to verify the results.
Other nonsurgical options for treating BPH are herbal remedies, some of which have exhibited results comparable to those produced by pharmaceuticals and with fewer side effects. These include saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), pygeum (Pygeum africanum) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Lifestyle changes can also have beneficial effects on BPH: Exercise, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, avoid decongestants, don’t drink a large amount of water after dinner, and reduce or completely eliminate tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.