What is prostatitis?
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland and sometimes the area around it. It is not cancer.
Only people assigned male at birth have a prostate gland. It sits in front of the rectum and below the bladder. The gland wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. The prostate makes the fluid part of semen.
Types of prostatitis
- Chronic prostatitis (chronic pelvic pain syndrome) This is the most common type of prostatitis. Symptoms may get better and then come back without warning. Healthcare providers do not know why this happens. There is no cure, but you can manage symptoms.
- Acute bacterial prostatitis. This is the least common type of prostatitis. It happens at any age. It often starts suddenly and causes severe symptoms. It’s important to get treatment right away. You may find it hard and very painful to pee (urinate). Other symptoms include fever, chills, low back pain, pain in the genital area, frequent peeing, a burning feeling when peeing, or urinary urgency at night. You may also have aches and pains all over your body.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis. This type is fairly uncommon. It is an infection that comes back again and again, and it is hard to treat. Symptoms are like a mild form of acute bacterial prostatitis. But they last longer. Often you have no fever.
- Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis. This is prostatitis with no symptoms. Your healthcare provider often diagnoses it during an exam or test, such as a prostate biopsy, for another health problem. They may diagnose it if you have infection-fighting cells in your prostate fluid or semen.
What causes prostatitis?
Prostatitis is most often caused by bacteria. They spread from the rectum or from infected urine.
You can't get prostatitis from another person. It is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But it can result from several STIs.
Who is at risk for prostatitis?
You can get prostatitis at any age. But some things raise your risk:
- Recent bladder or urinary tract infection, or other infection in the body
- Injury to the area between the scrotum and the anus
- Abnormal urinary tract anatomy
- Enlarged prostate
- Recent test where a catheter or scope was put into the urethra
What are the symptoms of prostatitis?
These are the most common symptoms of prostatitis:
- Need to pee often
- Burning or stinging feeling when peeing
- Pain when peeing
- Less urine when you pee
- Rectal pain or pressure
- Fever and chills (often only with an acute infection)
- Pain in your low back or pelvis
- Discharge through the urethra during bowel movements
- Erectile dysfunction or loss of sex drive
- Throbbing sensations in the rectal or genital area
The symptoms of prostatitis may look like other health conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is prostatitis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will review your past health and sexual history. They will also do a physical exam. Other tests may include:
- Urine culture. This test collects prostatic fluid and urine. They are checked for white blood cells and bacteria.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE). In this test, the healthcare provider puts a gloved finger into the rectum to check the part of the prostate next to the rectum. This is done to look for swelling or tenderness.
- Prostate massage. The healthcare provider massages your prostate gland to drain fluid into the urethra. This fluid is then checked under a microscope to look for inflammation or infection. This test is often done during a DRE.
- Semen culture. A semen sample is tested in the lab for bacteria and white blood cells.
- Cystoscopy. A thin, flexible tube and viewing device is put into the penis and through the urethra. Your healthcare provider uses the device to look at your bladder and urinary tract for structural changes or blockages.
- Transrectal ultrasound. A small, handheld device (transducer) is inserted into the rectum next to the prostate to show images of the prostate. Biopsies may be taken at this time.
- CT scan. This is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
How is prostatitis treated?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment depends on what type of prostatitis you have.
Chronic prostatitis (chronic pelvic pain syndrome)
You may take antibiotics until infection can be ruled out. Depending on the symptoms, other treatments may include:
- Medicines to help relax the muscles around the prostate and bladder, decrease inflammation, and ease pain
- Prostate massage to release the fluid that is causing pressure in the prostate
- Heat from hot baths or a heating pad to help ease discomfort
Chronic bacterial prostatitis
Treatment often means taking antibiotics for 4 to 12 weeks. This type of prostatitis is hard to treat, and the infection may come back. If antibiotics don’t work in 4 to 12 weeks, you may need to take a low dose of antibiotics for a while. In rare cases, you may need surgery to remove part or all of the prostate. This may be done if you have trouble emptying your bladder.
Acute bacterial prostatitis
For this type of prostatitis, you often take antibiotics for 2 to 4 weeks. It’s important to take the full course of antibiotics, even when you don’t have symptoms. This is to stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. You may also need pain medicines. You may be told to drink more fluids. In severe cases, you may need to stay in the hospital.
Always see your healthcare provider for more information about the treatment of prostatitis.
Key points about prostatitis
- Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland caused by infection. It can be 1 of several types.
- Prostatitis is not contagious and is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But it can be caused by an STI.
- Prostatitis can happen at any age. Symptoms may include peeing more often, a burning or stinging feeling when peeing, pain peeing, and fever and chills.
- Your healthcare provider often diagnoses prostatitis by your symptoms and by checking your urine and semen for signs of infection.
- Antibiotics are used to treat prostatitis. In rare cases, you may need surgery.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions, especially after office hours or on weekends.