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Categories > Men’s Health > Prostate disorders

Prostatitis: The other prostate disorder
One problem, three forms
Unsolved mysteries
Hard to pin down
Making it go away

Self-care tips
Self-care tips

You may help relieve or prevent prostatitis by:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy meals
  • taking regular bathroom breaks
  • buying a “split” bicycle seat to reduce prostate pressure

Ask most people to name a prostate disorder, and they’ll immediately say “cancer.” But mention a far more common prostate problem—prostatitis—and most folks will likely ask, “What’s that?”

Prostatitis is a noncancerous disorder of the prostate gland, the walnut-size organ near the male pubic bone that makes semen. When it’s infected or inflamed, it presses against the urethra, causing burning urination, chronic groin or lower back pain and reduced fertility.

One problem, three forms

Prostatitis can take three forms:

  • Acute bacterial prostatitis is serious but uncommon. Watch for sudden fever and other flulike symptoms along with weak, intermittent and painful urination. See your doctor immediately if these symptoms develop—you may require hospitalization.
  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis may cause recurring bladder infections, a slight fever, difficult urination and mild groin or perineal pain. Symptoms often seem to come and go (but never entirely—so don’t be fooled).
  • Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis, the most common form, is a chronic inflammation of the prostate. Symptoms closely resemble chronic bacterial prostatitis; however, it is not a true infection.

Unsolved mysteries

Doctors know that acute prostatitis occurs when everyday bacteria from the large intestine or urinary tract, or germs from a bladder infection, move into the prostate. But the causes of chronic bacterial and chronic nonbacterial prostatitis aren’t well understood.

Researchers think chronic bacterial prostatitis arises when ordinary bladder bacteria backs into the prostate ducts as a result of “stop-and-start” urination. Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis may result from frequent heavy lifting or continual vibration of the prostate for extended periods—truck drivers, cyclists and joggers may be affected.

Hard to pin down

Prostatitis is difficult to diagnose. Doctors first eliminate other possible conditions, such as a urinary tract infection. Once that’s done, the patient has a digital rectal exam of the prostate to check if it’s enlarged, mushy or painful. A special urine test gathers bacteria and white blood cell samples from the patient’s prostate fluid. These bacteria are cultured (grown) in a lab to determine their type. If no bacteria are present, the patient has chronic nonbacterial prostatitis—his prostate is inflamed but not necessarily infected.

Note: Although prostatitis raises the level of prostate-specific antigens (PSA) in the bloodstream—a possible sign of prostate cancer—there’s no evidence that prostatitis increases cancer risk.

Making it go away

Antibiotics are the primary treatment for prostatitis—a few weeks’ worth in acute cases, up to three months in chronic cases. And though nonbacterial prostatitis isn’t caused by an infection, antibiotics sometimes help relieve symptoms. Doctors cannot explain why.

Physical therapy may also be prescribed, including:

  • pelvic exercises that relax and stretch groin muscles
  • biofeedback that teaches control of certain muscles groups
  • sitz baths that relieve stress and tension in the abdomen
  • prostate massage to unplug ducts that may be filled with bacteria