What is prostatitis?

The prostate is a gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is about the size of a walnut, and helps in sperm production and ejaculation. The prostate lies below a man’s bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine.

Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. This occurs when the gland’s tissue become swollen and irritated. There are 2 main types of the condition: bacterial prostatitis (chronic or acute) or nonbacterial prostatitis.

Symptoms of prostatitis

You can have a range of prostatitis symptoms. They may be similar to other problems with your prostate or urinary tract. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.

  • difficult or painful urination
  • frequent urination
  • fever
  • lower back pain
  • pain in your penis, testicles, or perineum (the area between your testicles and rectum)
  • blood in your urine or semen
  • failure to get an erection
  • decreased interest in sex.

What causes prostatitis?

An infection causes bacterial prostatitis. It is chronic if it starts slowly and lasts for several months. It is acute if it begins and goes away quickly. Infection can occur from:

  • a biopsy or surgery
  • a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • urine blockage
  • an injury to your genitals.

Nonbacterial prostatitis is more common but its cause is unknown. This type usually is chronic. It may be related to a previous urinary tract infection (UTI) or chemicals in your urine. Pelvic nerve damage also is a possible cause.

How is prostatitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will do physical and rectal exams. For the physical test, the doctor looks for a swollen, tender scrotum and enlarged lymph nodes in your groin area. For the rectal test, they insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum. They feel the back of your prostate gland for swelling, warmth, and tenderness. The doctor also may test urine, blood, or semen samples. This helps rule out other problems to find the cause.

Can prostatitis be prevented or avoided?

You cannot prevent most cases of prostatitis. However, you should get checked for STDs. If you or your partner has an STD, make sure you use condoms. This helps prevent getting or spreading the infection.

Men who have frequent UTIs are more likely to have prostatitis. Men who are 50 years of age or older also have an increased risk.

Prostatitis treatment

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection. This is common even for nonbacterial cases. It helps to make sure an infection isn’t hiding. You might have to take medicine for several weeks or a few months. This will depend on if your condition is acute or chronic. For severe cases, you may have to go to a hospital. This is if you need fluids to rehydrate you or a catheter to help you urinate.

You can treat symptoms of prostatitis by doing the following things:

  • Drinking extra fluids to urinate more often. This helps get rid of the bacteria faster.
  • Avoid food and drinks that dehydrate you. This includes caffeine, alcohol, and anything spicy or acidic.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These can reduce pain and swelling.
  • Take hot baths to relieve pain in your lower back or other areas.

Living with prostatitis

Treatment should get rid of prostatitis. Make sure you take antibiotics according to your doctor’s instruction. This means finishing the order and not skipping a dose. Your doctor likely will recommend follow-up tests. These will confirm if the infection is gone and help prevent it from reoccurring. If it does come back, you’ll need to take more medicine for a longer time.

It is rare for people who have prostatitis to need surgery. Talk to your doctor if your condition is chronic and medicine is not helping.

Although prostatitis is painful, it does not cause cancer. However, it can cause your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level to increase. This is a problem if your doctor does a PSA blood test to check for prostate cancer. A positive result does not mean you have cancer. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends against (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Could my symptoms be caused by something other than prostatitis?
  • How do I know if an STD caused my prostatitis?
  • How long do I need to take antibiotics?
  • Are there any side effects from treatment?
  • Should I avoid having sex while I have prostatitis?
  • Is there anything I can do to avoid getting prostatitis again?