While the cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is unknown, the risks of developing the condition, which is characterized by the enlargement of the prostate, increases with age.
Individuals who suffer from enlargement of the prostate may be recommended to undergo surgery, particularly if their condition includes symptoms such as recurrent urinary tract infection, decreased kidney function, urinary retention or the inability to empty the bladder, incontinence and recurrent blood in the urine. A noninvasive treatment that has worked with dogs may, however, bring hope to affected individuals who may find it inconvenient to undergo surgery to treat their condition.
The noninvasive treatment involves pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF), which uses a handheld device that produces energy waves and is placed over the affected area. PEMF is used to reduce the side effects of surgery and speed recovery, as well as to treat other medical conditions including circulatory problems.
In the new study published in The Prostate on June 9, Raffaella Leoci, from the veterinary clinic and animal production section of the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy, and colleagues treated 20 dogs with BPH for 5 minutes two times a day for three weeks to assess the efficacy of PEMF in dogs. The procedure involved placing the PEMF device over the skin where the dog's prostate is located.
"Previous studies have suggested that reduced blood flow to the prostate gland and resulting inflammation contribute to the development of BPH," Leoci said. "We know that PEMF has positive effects on similar conditions, so we thought it might also heal BPH or maybe even prevent BPH from developing."
The researchers found that the dogs had remarkable improvement, showing a 57 percent reduction in their prostate size with only three weeks of treatment. The researchers also observed that the treatment did not affect the animals' semen quality, testosterone levels and libido. Since the canine prostate served as a model for a better understanding of the abnormal increase in the size of human prostate gland, the study suggests that the treatment may work with humans as well.
"The efficacy of PEMF on BPH in dogs, with no side effects, suggests the suitability of this treatment in humans and supports the hypothesis that impairment of blood supply to the lower urinary tract may be a causative factor in the development of BPH," the researchers wrote.
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