If the prostate gland is inflamed or infected, it's referred to as prostatitis.
Depending on the extent of the irritation, men may have difficulty urinating or maintaining or obtaining an erection. Discomfort is usually relegated to the area around the rectum, penis, testicles, and lower back. While more likely to affect older men, prostatitis may occur in men within any age group.
- In some instances, the resulting inflammation or infection goes away fairly quickly.
- For more serious irritations, patients may be referred to a urologist for further evaluation.
What Causes Prostatitis?
Prostatitis is often caused by a bacterial infection. Infections may first develop if urine gets into the prostate. In some cases, trauma in the pelvic area may damage nerves in part of the urinary tract. Other times, there is no clear reason why the prostate becomes inflamed or irritated. Long-term use of a urinary catheter sometimes increases the risk of developing prostatitis, as does having an infection in the bladder or urethra or a compromised immune system.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms may come on suddenly or become increasingly noticeable and more severe as the infection spreads. With some infections, the only signs of a problem may be frequent urination or a persistent urge to urinate. Bacterial prostatitis can produce symptoms similar to what’s experienced with the flu, which sometimes causes patients to delay seeing treatment. Signs and symptoms that may suggest prostatitis also include:
- Pain and/or burning sensations while urinating
- Dribbling and other irregularities when urinating
- Frequent urination that often occurs at night
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Lower back, groin, or abdominal pain
- Penis/testicle pain
- Discomfort during ejaculation
How is Prostatitis Diagnosed?
Because the symptoms associated with prostatitis can overlap with other conditions that may affect the prostate, bladder, urethra, reproductive organs, and urinary tract, diagnosis typically includes a review of medical history and a comprehensive examination. A digital rectal examination, blood and urine tests, and image tests that might include X-rays, a CT scan, or a sonogram are some of the steps that may be taken to make a positive diagnosis. There are four main types of prostatitis:
- Acute bacterial prostatitis that usually causes nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis
- Chronic non-bacterial prostatitis
- Inflammatory prostatitis without symptoms
The most common way to treat prostatitis is with antibiotics. For more severe infections, medication may be delivered intravenously. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended to improve comfort and ease tissue swelling. Alpha blockers sometimes minimize pain during urination. Some patients benefit from dietary changes, warm bath soaks, and alternative treatments such as the use of herbal supplements, biofeedback, acupuncture, and physical therapy.
Prostatitis may not be entirely preventable, since there are many possible sources of an infection or irritation that may affect the prostate gland and related structures. What patients can do is drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and seek treatment sooner rather than later for issues that may contribute to prostatitis, such as recurring urinary tract infections.