Drugs for Prostate Disorders

Drugs that are used to treat disorders affecting the prostate gland

Common drugs

    Alpha-blocker drugs

  • Alfuzosin

  • Doxazosin

  • Tamsulosin

  • Terazosin

    Antiandrogen drugs

  • Bicalutamide

  • Cyproterone

  • Dutasteride

  • Finasteride

  • Flutamide

    Gonadorelin analogues

  • Goserelin

  • Leuprorelin

The main disorders that affect the prostate are noncancerous enlargement of the prostate (see Enlarged prostate gland), prostate cancer, and infection (see Prostatitis). Drugs may be used to treat all of these conditions, sometimes in conjunction with surgery or other treatments. An enlarged prostate gland constricts the urethra, the tube along which urine flows from the bladder. There may also be obstruction if the muscle at the outlet of the bladder fails to relax. This can cause problems, such as a frequent urge to pass urine but difficulty in doing so. Prostate cancer can cause similar difficulties in passing urine, and may also spread to other parts of the body. Infection of the prostate may cause symptoms including fever and pain in the lower back, around the anus, or around the base of the penis. You may also have other symptoms, including frequent, painful passing of urine and discoloured semen that contains blood.

What are the types?

The main types of drug used to treat prostate disorders are alpha-blockers and antiandrogens. Alpha-blockers are used to improve the flow of urine from the bladder. Antiandrogens are used to treat both noncancerous and cancerous enlargement of the prostate. Gonadorelin analogues may also be used to treat prostate cancer.

Prostate infections are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. The course of treatment may need to be continued for several weeks before the infection clears up completely.

Alpha-blocker drugs

Drugs of this type, such as doxazosin and alfuzosin, relax the ring of muscle at the outlet of the bladder, thereby improving urine flow. Alpha-blockers are taken orally and may need to be used indefinitely because symptoms often recur when the drugs are stopped. Alpha-blockers may lower blood pressure, leading to lightheadedness. The drugs may also cause drowsiness, tiredness, mood changes, a dry mouth, headache, and nausea.

Antiandrogen drugs

Androgens are male sex hormones (testosterone, for example) that play an important but incompletely understood role in the development of noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland and of prostate cancer. Antiandrogens work by counteracting the effects of androgens.

The main antiandrogens used for cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland are cyproterone, flutamide, and bicalutamide. They work by preventing the nuclei of prostate cells from being stimulated by testosterone, thereby inhibiting or stopping tumour growth. Certain other antiandrogens (known as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors), such as finasteride, are used to treat noncancerous enlargement of the prostate. These drugs work by inhibiting the metabolism of testosterone, which leads to a reduction in the size of the prostate. The 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors can be used as an alternative to alpha-blockers but may take several months to have a beneficial effect.

Antiandrogens are taken orally. They produce some side effects, which include reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and breast tenderness.

Gonadorelin analogues

These drugs are commonly used to treat prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland. The drugs affect the release of gonadotrophin hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain, thereby reducing the production of testosterone, the hormone that promotes the growth of prostate tumours. Gonadorelin analogues are either given by injection or are given as an implant under the skin. They may initially make symptoms worse. However, this effect may be treated with an anti-androgen, such as flutamide. Gonadorelin analogues may cause side effects such as hot flushes, itching, loss of libido, nausea, and vomiting.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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