What is prostatitis?

If you’re experiencing pain and discomfort in and around your prostate, you might have prostatitis (pross-tah-ty-tis).  

Prostatitis is when the prostate becomes inflamed, which can make the prostate feel sore and irritated. Sometimes it’s very painful, and can have a huge effect on your quality of life. Often it can be treated, which is why it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

Male anatomy_Diagram
How common is prostatitis?

Prostatitis can happen at any age. We think that one in six men get this condition at some stage in their lives.

What are the symptoms of prostatitis?

There are many possible symptoms of prostatitis, including:

  • Painful urination

  • The feeling of needing to urinate urgently

  • Needing to urinate more often than normal

  • Lower back pain

  • Perineal pain (pain at the base of the scrotum and penis)

  • Cold chills

  • A raised fever

  • Muscular pain

  • General lack of energy.

Is there more than one type of prostatitis?

The main types of prostatitis are bacterial prostatitis and non-bacterial prostatitis.

 

Bacterial prostatitis

Bacterial prostatitis is an infection caused by bacteria. It’s the easiest kind of prostatitis to diagnose and treat, although it can become serious if not dealt with quickly.

Acute (once-off) bacterial prostatitis is the least common form of prostatitis, but if the infection is not dealt with it can be life-threatening.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis is when bacterial prostatitis comes back again and again. It’s caused by an underlying problem in the prostate, such as prostate stones or an enlarged prostate (known as BPH), which attract bacteria. Chronic bacterial prostatitis is also a common cause of repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are infections in the urinary system.

 

Non-bacterial prostatitis

Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis (chronic prostate pain syndrome) is when the prostate is inflamed, but there isn’t any bacteria present. We don’t yet understand this form of prostatitis very well, although we know that they don’t cause urinary tract infections. Symptoms can disappear and come back later, and are often made worse by stress.

What causes prostatitis?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can turn into bacterial prostatitis. Unprotected sexual intercourse can also let bacteria into the urethra (the urine passage between the bladder and the tip of the penis), which can then move up to the prostate.

Other cases of bacterial prostatitis happen when there is a blockage at the outlet of the bladder. Bladder outlet obstructions can cause urinary tract infections, which can then spread to the prostate.

Other things that can make you more likely to develop prostatitis include diabetes, poor health, or a weakened immune system.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

The best thing to do if you’re having any of these symptoms is to visit your doctor.

How is prostatitis diagnosed?

It’s not easy to diagnose prostatitis because it’s difficult to get an accurate lab test result. But there are a few tests that can be done, including physical examinations and urine tests, which your doctor can talk about with you.

How is prostatitis treated?

The treatment for prostatitis depends on the cause, but sometimes it can’t be cured.

Any underlying cause of prostatitis should be treated first. For example, if you have chronic prostatitis, a medical professional might remove obstructions or stones.

Antibiotics can effectively treat bacterial prostatitis.

Non-bacterial prostatitis can be treated in a number of ways that should help with painful symptoms.

A type of medicine called an ‘alpha blocker’ can be used to relax the muscles in the upper part of the urethra, which helps with the pain. Medicines that reduce swelling, called anti-inflammatory agents, can also help with symptoms.

If you have chronic prostatitis, there is a surgery that can help, which your doctor can discuss with you.

Other treatments for prostatitis include prostate massages to relieve the pain, and getting a health professional, such as a physiotherapist, to teach you how to do pelvic floor exercises.

What else can I do to help relieve prostatitis symptoms?

You can also try to relieve symptoms by:

  • Cutting out caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods from your diet

  • Taking a hot bath

  • Avoiding anything that gives you constipation, because large, hard bowel movements can press on the sore prostate and be quite painful.

Is there a link between prostatitis and prostate cancer?

Studies have suggested that people with long-term prostatitis might have a slightly higher chance of developing prostate cancer. Although a definite link hasn’t been shown, if you have long-term prostatitis, it’s a good idea to have regular prostate checks.

Can prostate infections make me infertile?

Infections of the prostate can cause swelling and block off part of the reproductive passage that goes through the prostate. This can also stop sperm from being ejaculated.

Because the prostate and seminal vesicles (tube shaped glands in the pelvis) create most of the fluid that you ejaculate, a blockage near the prostate can sometimes lower the amount of semen ejaculated. Infected cells can also be passed from the prostate and seminal vesicles into the semen, which can damage the sperm.

How can prostatitis affect my life?

Prostatitis can be very painful. If you’re unsure about whether the condition can be treated, this can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. Prostatitis can also lower your sex drive, because the pain can make it hard to enjoy sexual activity.

Reaching out to family and partners for support can help in dealing with ongoing prostatitis. Although it can be an unpleasant condition, there are treatments that can help with the symptoms.

Your doctor’s appointment

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What are the best ways to relieve symptoms or prevent prostatitis again in the future?

Things to think about before your appointment

  • Have you had problems or changes to urinating? How would you describe these problems? i.e. frequent, urgent, weak stream.

  • Have you ever had a urine infection?

  • Do you experience pain or burning sensations during or after ejaculating?

Email these questions to yourself to take into your doctor's appointment.

Resources

Video

What is the prostate?

Video

Prostatitis

Prostatitis Fact Sheet Tile Image

Fact sheet

Prostatitis fact sheet