The effects of tamsulosin hydrochloride

old outside mens toilet image by Joyce Wilkes from

For a man with an enlarged prostate gland, the simple act of urinating is a struggle. The urine stream won't start, the urge to urinate won't stop, and trips to the men's room mount up.

Tamsulosin hydrochloride, an alpha blocker commonly prescribed under the brand name Flomax, can reduce the symptoms of prostate enlargement, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Although it won't shrink the prostate back to its original size, tamsulosin may restore the urine stream to normal.

Increased Flow

The prostate--a walnut-sized gland located at the base of the bladder--wraps around the urethra and produces some of the fluid found in semen, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The prostate gland grows throughout a man's adult life, and the NIDDK reports that up to 90 per cent of men in their 70s and 80s have enough prostate enlargement to cause some degree of urinary trouble.

The problem starts when the prostate grows large enough to compress the urethra and block the normal flow of urine from the bladder, states the Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals website. Over time, the urine stream may become weak, hesitant and interrupted. Urine may dribble or leak. Sometimes, urine may stop flowing completely, which can cause kidney damage. When a man starts taking tamsulosin, however, the drug relaxes muscles in the prostate and bladder, reducing the amount of pressure on the urethra and allowing more urine to flow.

Decreased Frequency and Urgency

Because the bladder may never fully empty, a man with BPH may feel the need to urinate many times throughout the day and night, according to BPH can also cause a strong urge to urinate. By reducing pressure on the urethra, tamsulosin helps the bladder empty more fully, thus reducing the sensation of frequently or urgently needing to urinate.

Decreased Straining

When a man feels the need to urinate but can't, he may naturally respond by straining in an effort to push urine past the blockage in his urethra. Over time, however, straining may cause even more problems, such as haemorrhoids and hernia, reports. By reducing the blockage in the urethra, tamsulosin reduces the need to strain when urinating.

Possible Side Effects

Besides its therapeutic effects, tamsulosin may cause side effects. According to the National Library of Medicine, side effects might include sleep difficulty, weakness, back pain, diarrhoea, nose or throat changes, blurry vision or trouble ejaculating.

A rare but serious effect known as priapism warrants immediate medical care. A painful penile erection unrelated to sexual stimulation, priapism can last several hours or more, the NLM reports. A serious allergic reaction to tamsulosin, another possible side effect, might cause a rash, itching, hives, or swelling of the eyes, face, tongue, throat or limbs.