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What is prostatitis?

Prostatitis is a condition that affects the prostate gland, the walnut-shaped organ that lies just below a man’s bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube through which urine passes). The prostate gland produces most of the fluid in semen.

Prostatitis is sometimes an infection of the prostate, but it can also be an inflammation (swelling) with no sign of infection.

Prostatitis can affect men of all ages. Nearly half of all men have prostatitis-like symptoms at some point during their lifetime.

Types of prostatitis

There are four types of prostatitis:

Acute bacterial prostatitis: This type is the least common and lasts a short time. It can also be life-threatening if left untreated. This is the easiest type of prostatitis to diagnose.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis: Symptoms are less intense and develop over several years. It’s more likely to affect young and middle-aged men and cause recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Chronic prostatitis, or chronic pelvic pain syndrome: This condition causes pain and discomfort around the groin and pelvic area. It can affect men of all ages.

Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis: The prostate is inflamed but there are no symptoms. It’s usually discovered when a doctor is diagnosing another problem.

Causes of prostatitis

The cause of prostate infection isn’t always clear. For chronic prostatitis, the exact cause is unknown. Researchers believe:

  • a microorganism can cause chronic prostatitis
  • your immune system is responding to a previous UTI
  • your immune system is reacting to nerve damage in the area

For acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis, bacterial infections are the cause. Sometimes, bacteria can get into the prostate through the urethra.

You are at increased risk of prostate infection if you use a catheter or have a medical procedure involving the urethra. Other risk factors include:

  • bladder obstruction
  • infection
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • enlarged prostate or injury, which can encourage infection

What are the symptoms of prostatitis?

You may have no symptoms or symptoms so sudden and severe that you seek emergency medical care.

Symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • Having to urinate often
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Chills and fever
  • Pain that comes and goes in the lower abdomen, around the anus, in the groin, or in the back
  • Pain during ejaculation
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

In addition, the prostate may swell, causing a less powerful urine stream.

Diagnosis

If your health care provider suspects a problem with your prostate or nearby tissues, he/she may send you to an urologist. An urologist is a doctor who treats problems of the urinary tract and male reproductive systems.

Your doctor may also ask about your symptoms, recent UTIs, and medications or supplements you’re taking. Other medical tests that can help your diagnosis and treatment plan include:

  • urinalysis or semen analysis, to look for infections
  • a prostate biopsy or a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
  • urodynamic tests, to see how your bladder and urethra store urine
  • cystoscopy, to look inside the urethra and bladder for blockage

Your doctor may also order an ultrasound to get a closer look. The cause will help determine the correct course of treatment.

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