Prostatitis | Definition and Patient Education


What Is Prostatitis?

The prostate is a small gland located under the bladder in men. It produces a fluid that makes up between 50 and 75 percent of semen (which also contains spermatazoa and seminal vesicle fluid). Prostatitis is inflammation of that gland. The inflammation may spread to the area around the prostate.

Types of Prostatitis

There are different types of prostatitis:

  • Chronic prostatitis is the most common form of the condition (Urology Care Foundation). The cause is not known. Unlike other forms of prostatitis, it is not caused by bacteria.
  • Acute bacterial prostatitis develops suddenly, due to a bacterial infection. Although it is the least common type of prostatitis, it is easy to diagnose because of the severity of symptoms.
  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis comes on slower than acute bacterial prostatitis. Symptoms tend to be milder, but they reoccur.
  • Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis does not cause symptoms, even though there is inflammation.

What Causes Prostatitis?

Bacterial prostatitis is caused by different types of bacteria. These bacteria can also cause a bladder infection. A common cause in men older than 35 is E. coli. Sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause bacterial prostatitis.

An injury to the prostate or a disorder of the nervous system or immune system can also cause prostatitis. In many cases, the exact cause of chronic prostatitis is not found.

Who Is at Risk for Prostatitis?

Although men of any age can develop prostatitis, being over the age of 50 with an enlarged prostate increases your chances. Other factors can increase your risk. For instance, having a urinary catheter increases risk. Bladder infections, pelvic trauma, and past bouts of prostatitis increase risk.

Having unprotected sex and being HIV positive also increase your chances of developing a form of prostatitis (Medline Plus).

What Are the Symptoms of Prostatitis?

Symptoms vary depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic. Men with acute bacterial prostatitis may develop symptoms including bladder pain, difficulty with urination, low back pain, chills, and fever.

Men with chronic prostatitis, whether it is bacterial or not, will often have the same symptoms, but they will be less severe.

Some men may also have foul-smelling urine, pain in the testicles, and painful ejaculation.

In cases of asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis, a man will not have any symptoms. The condition is often found during a physical exam or a visit to a doctor for another reason (Mayo Clinic).

How Is Prostatitis Diagnosed?

It is important for a doctor to make sure the symptoms are due to prostatitis and not another condition. Similar symptoms may develop with an enlarged prostate, cystitis, or other conditions.

The type of prostatitis must also be determined, because bacterial prostatitis and other types of prostatitis may be treated differently.

If symptoms are present, a doctor will perform a physical exam, including a prostate exam.

The prostate is located in front of the rectum. A digital rectal exam allows the doctor to feel the prostate and check for enlargement.

Blood tests and urine analysis are often performed. In some cases, a cystoscopy may be recommended. In a cystoscopy, a small scope is inserted through the urethra, so the doctor can view the bladder and prostate.

How Is Prostatitis Treated?

For bacterial prostatitis, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics. The type of antibiotic and length of treatment will vary based on the type of bacteria.

Pain relievers and alpha blockers may be prescribed for all types of prostatitis. Alpha blockers reduce muscle spasms, which may develop near the base of the bladder and cause painful urination.

Treatment may include heat therapy to reduce pain.

What Is the Outlook for Prostatitis?

Most men respond well to treatment for acute bacterial prostatitis (Urology Care Foundation). Chronic prostatitis is harder to cure but can be managed.


Prostatitis is often not preventable, because the cause is often not known.

Sexually transmitted diseases can lead to prostatitis, so practicing safe sex may reduce the risk of bacterial prostatitis.

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