Prostate problems are common in men age 50 and older.
Prostatitis is an infection of the prostate gland and is characterized by inflammation and swelling. Because men with the condition may experience flu-like symptoms or issues with urination, prostatitis can be difficult to diagnose without a thorough evaluation and diagnostic tests.
- Treatment will depend on what’s causing the infection.
- If it’s bacterial in nature, antibiotics are often effective.
Causes of Prostatitis
The prostate gland may become affected by the leakage of urine that contains a common bacterial strain. If there isn’t such an infection detected, prostatitis could be caused by nerve damage, trauma, or an infection that developed during surgery to correct another issue in the pelvic or lower abdominal area. Symptoms suggesting prostatitis typically include:
- Burning or painful sensations during urination (dysuria)
- “Dribbling” or other issues with urination flow
- Abdominal, groin, or lower back pain
- Blood in urine
- Pain in the penis, testicles, or scrotum
- Frequent urination
Making a Diagnosis
Diagnosis of prostatitis often involves ruling out other urinary system problems and prostate issues, such as an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. A physical exam may include a digital rectal examination (DRE) coupled with urine and blood tests. A post-prostatic massage is sometimes done to test secretions. To pinpoint a possible reason for a prostate infection, a CT scan of the prostate and urinary tract may be performed. If a real-time image is preferred, a sonogram might be done. Results from such tests will be used to determine the specific type of prostatitis affecting a patient. There are four possibilities:
- Acute bacterial prostatitis: A bacterial-based infection that usually produces flu-like symptoms.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis: Recurring infections that are also bacterial in nature but difficult to treat. Patients may have little or no symptoms between infections.
- Chronic prostatitis: A persistent or recurring form of the condition that’s not bacterial. Patients often notice persistent pelvic pain, although symptoms sometimes increase in severity.
- Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis: With this form of the condition, no symptoms are experienced. Treatment isn’t usually required unless symptoms suddenly develop.
When the source of the infection is a strain of bacteria, antibiotics are often prescribed. While normally delivered orally with pills, antibiotics may be given intravenously to men with a severe infection. If the condition is chronic or recurring, a longer course of oral antibiotics may be recommended. Alpha blockers may help relax the bladder neck and muscles around the area where the prostate and bladder meet. Anti-inflammatory medications are also effective for some patients. Comfort may be further improved with sitz baths or the use of heating pad and avoiding certain activities or actions that may aggravate the prostate, such as riding a bicycle or sitting for long periods of time. Some patients experience relief from alternative treatments that may include biofeedback and acupuncture.
If left untreated, prostatitis may lead to serious infections extending to other parts of the urinary system or more disruptive symptoms. Men who’ve had this condition before are more likely to develop a similar infection again. Bladder or urethral infections, pelvic trauma, regular use of a catheter, and having a compromised immune system are among the additional factors that may increase the odds of developing prostatitis.