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What Is Tamsulosin Used For?

Key Takeaways

  • Tamsulosin is used to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an enlarged prostate, such as urinary frequency or urgency, painful urination, incomplete bladder emptying, and difficulty urinating with weak stream, hesitation, and dribbling. 

  • Common side effects of tamsulosin may include a runny or stuffy nose, abnormal ejaculation, headache, and dizziness. Serious side effects can include low blood pressure, chest pain, painful or prolonged erection, and allergic reactions. 

  • Tamsulosin doesn't shrink the prostate, but it treats the obstruction caused by the enlarged prostate, improving urination and enhancing the quality of life for those with BPH. 

Tamsulosin (brand name: Flomax) is a medication used to treat the symptoms of an enlarged prostate or prostate-related disease, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). While tamsulosin does not shrink the prostate, it may help relieve urinary symptoms in prostate cancer patients. Learn about tamsulosin's recommended dosage, side effects, and precautions for informed incorporation into your treatment plan.

How tamsulosin works

Tamsulosin belongs to a group of medications called alpha-adrenergic blockers (or alpha-blockers). Tamsulosin binds to alpha-1 receptors in the bladder and prostate; as a result, this medication induces muscle relaxation of the bladder and prostate, thus making urination easier and providing relief of urinary symptoms in people with BPH.

What is tamsulosin used for?

Tamsulosin effectively addresses BPH symptoms like frequent urination, incomplete bladder emptying, weak stream, painful urination, and difficulty urinating. 

While tamsulosin doesn't shrink the prostate, it effectively addresses the obstruction caused by the enlarged prostate, thereby improving urination and enhancing the quality of life for those with BPH. 

Tamsulosin can also provide relief of urinary symptoms in prostate cancer patients. While tamsulosin is not a prostate cancer treatment, it can be used in addition to the overall treatment plan to manage urinary symptoms such as urinary frequency and discomfort following radiation therapy for at least a few weeks.

Dosage and administration

Adults usually start with 0.4 mg (milligrams) of tamsulosin once daily, about 30 minutes after the same meal every day. This helps improve the absorption of tamsulosin in the body. 

The maximum dosage of tamsulosin is 0.8 mg by mouth once daily. Your healthcare provider may increase the dose of tamsulosin from 0.4 mg once daily to 0.8 mg once daily if you have been taking tamsulosin 0.4 mg daily for 1 to 2 weeks and not achieve an adequate response. 

If you feel dizzy after getting up from a sitting or lying position, try to get up slowly until your body is used to this medication. 

If you miss a dose of tamsulosin, take the medicine as soon as you remember. However, if it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next tamsulosin dose at the regular time. Do not take two doses to make up for the missed dose. 

Maintaining a regular dosing schedule will help you get the maximum benefits from this medication. As mentioned, it is important to take tamsulosin 30 minutes after the same meal every day.

Potential side effects and adverse effects

Common side effects of tamsulosin may include:  

  • Runny, stuffy nose

  • Abnormal ejaculation, decreased sexual desire

  • Headache, back pain

  • Dizziness, drowsiness

  • Blurred vision

  • Insomnia

More serious side effects can include a severe allergic reaction or a severe skin reaction. Other serious side effects include low blood pressure, chest pain, or painful or prolonged erection (priapism). If an erection lasts for more than four hours, it may cause damage to the penis.

Seek medical attention if you develop a light-headed feeling or feel faint, as this could be a sign of dangerously low blood pressure. You should also seek emergency medical attention if you have symptoms of an unusual or allergic reaction, including hives, swelling of the face, lips, throat, or tongue, trouble breathing, or if you have purple skin rash that blisters, fever, sore throat, and skin pain. You should also seek medical attention for a prolonged or painful erection. 

Drug interactions

Tamsulosin can have drug interactions with other medications, dietary supplements, and over-the-counter drugs. Tell your doctor if you are currently taking other alpha blockers, or blood pressure medications or if you take phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors for erectile dysfunction or pulmonary arterial hypertension. 

While not a drug interaction, if you have an allergy to sulfa drugs, caution should be exercised when using tamsulosin.

Discuss all medications with your doctor before starting tamsulosin.

Precautions and warnings

Inform your healthcare provider about your medical history and if you have or ever had:   

There are no dosage adjustments required for kidney disease. However, you should inform your doctor if you have kidney disease or liver disease, as caution should be exercised. 

If you are planning cataract or glaucoma surgery, inform your doctor due to potential complications with tamsulosin. 

Drinking alcohol can lower blood pressure further, which can make you feel dizzy. You should not drink alcohol while taking tamsulosin to avoid the drop in blood pressure.

In case of overdose, you should contact your healthcare provider and call the local poison control center at 1-900-222-1222 if you are a U.S. resident. If the symptoms are severe, you should seek emergency medical care at the nearest emergency room.

Strictly follow prescribed dosages and discuss concerns with your doctor.

In conclusion

Tamsulosin is a safe and effective medication used to manage symptoms of an enlarged prostate or BPH. This medication can also help relieve urinary symptoms in prostate cancer patients, especially following radiation therapy for at least a few weeks. Tamsulosin is classified as an alpha-blocker, and it works to improve urinary issues by relaxing smooth muscles in the prostate and bladder. You should adhere to prescribed dosages and take this medication about 30 minutes after the same meal every day. You should be aware of potential side effects and inform your doctor if you experience an unusual or severe side effect with tamsulosin.

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