What is prostatitis?

The prostate is a small gland located under the bladder in men. It produces a fluid that makes up 50 to 75 percent of semen. Prostatitis is inflammation of your prostate gland. The inflammation may spread to the area around your prostate.

Types of prostatitis include the following:

  • Chronic prostatitis is the most common type, reports the Urology Care Foundation. Its cause is often unknown.
  • Acute bacterial prostatitis is caused by a bacterial infection. It appears suddenly with severe symptoms.
  • A bacterial infection also causes chronic bacterial prostatitis. It develops more slowly than acute bacterial prostatitis, and its symptoms tend to be milder but recurring.
  • Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms.

The symptoms of prostatitis vary, depending on whether it’s acute or chronic.

If you have acute bacterial prostatitis, you may have:

  • pain in the lower abdomen, lower back, or rectum
  • difficulty urinating
  • pain with urinating
  • chills
  • a fever

You may also have foul-smelling urine, pain in your testicles, and painful ejaculation.

If you have chronic prostatitis or chronic bacterial prostatitis, you may have similar symptoms, but they’ll be less severe.

If you have asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis, you won’t notice any symptoms. Your doctor may find this condition during a routine physical exam. They may also notice it while checking you for other conditions.

Different types of bacteria can cause bacterial prostatitis. Those bacteria can also cause a bladder infection. One common cause among men over the age of 35 is Escherichia coli. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea and chlamydia, can also cause bacterial prostatitis.

An injury to your prostate gland can cause prostatitis. A disorder of your nervous system or immune system can also cause it. In many cases, the exact cause of chronic prostatitis is unknown.

Although men of any age can develop prostatitis, older men are more likely to experience it than younger men. If you’re over age 50 and have an enlarged prostate, you have an increased risk of developing this condition.

Other factors can also increase your risk, including having:

  • a urinary catheter inserted
  • a bladder infection
  • pelvic trauma
  • past bouts of prostatitis

Having unprotected sex and being HIV-positive also increase your chances of developing prostatitis.

If you suspect you have prostatitis, make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll need to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. For example, an enlarged prostate, cystitis, and some other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam, including a prostate exam. Your prostate is located in front of your rectum. During a digital rectal exam, your doctor will feel your prostate and check for enlargement. In some cases, they may recommend a cystoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor will insert a small scope through your urethra to look at your bladder and prostate gland.

Your doctor also needs to determine the type of prostatitis you have. They may order blood tests and urine analysis.

If you’re diagnosed with bacterial prostatitis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. The type of antibiotic and length of treatment will vary, depending on the type of bacteria that’s causing your symptoms.

Your doctor may also prescribe pain relievers or alpha-blockers. Alpha-blockers reduce muscle spasms of the urethral sphincter, which is the muscle that helps you control the flow of urine. The sphincter may spasm in response to the inflammation of prostatitis.

Your doctor may also recommend heat therapy to reduce pain.

Most men respond well to treatment for acute bacterial prostatitis. Chronic prostatitis is harder to cure, but it can often be managed. Ask your doctor about your specific condition, treatment plan, and outlook.

Many cases of prostatitis aren’t preventable, since the cause is often unknown. STIs can lead to prostatitis. Practicing safe sex can help reduce your risk of developing this condition.