What is prostatitis?


Prostatitis: Overview

Prostatitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation or infection of the prostate. The prostate is a small organ that produces most of the fluid in semen. It lies just below the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine through the penis and out of the body.

Prostatitis is sometimes caused by bacteria. But often the cause isn't known.

Prostatitis caused by bacteria is usually treated with self-care and antibiotics.


Prostatitis is swelling or infection of the prostate. It's usually painful. The prostate is a small organ below the bladder that makes part of the semen fluid.

Prostatitis can cause urinary problems. You may have an urge to urinate often, burning pain, and a feeling that you can't empty your bladder. Symptoms may be sudden and severe (acute) or mild and long-lasting (chronic).

What happens when you have prostatitis?

There are different types of prostatitis. The symptoms, treatment, and course of the disease vary for each type.

  • Acute prostatitis

    Symptoms usually start suddenly and include severe pain and fever. A delay in getting treatment increases the risk of problems. These may include an abscess in the prostate or a severe infection (sepsis), which can be fatal.

  • Chronic prostatitis

    Symptoms are often mild and start slowly over weeks or months. Chronic prostatitis often gets better over time without serious problems. But the symptoms sometimes come back.

  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis

    When chronic prostatitis is caused by bacteria, it:

    • Often causes repeated urinary tract infections. The infection may spread to the epididymis.
    • Can be hard to treat. Some medicines have a hard time reaching the prostate.
    • Can also be harder to treat when there are infected prostate stones.

Prostatitis can cause stress, anxiety, or depression, especially if it lasts for a long time.

What are the symptoms of prostatitis?

Symptoms of chronic prostatitis are often mild and start slowly over weeks or months. Symptoms of acute prostatitis usually start suddenly and are severe.

When you have prostatitis, you may have pain when you urinate or ejaculate. You may urinate often or have trouble starting a stream of urine. You may pass only a little urine and feel like your bladder isn't completely empty. With acute prostatitis, you may also have a fever and chills.

How is prostatitis treated?

Treatment depends on the condition you have.

  • Acute prostatitis is treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may suggest home care such as over-the-counter pain medicines and stool softeners.
  • Chronic prostatitis may be treated with medicines such as alpha blockers. Your doctor may suggest other treatments, such as physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medicines.

Preventing prostatitis

You may not be able to prevent prostatitis. But seek early treatment if you have a possible urinary tract infection. And practicing safer sex can reduce your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection that could cause prostatitis.

How is prostatitis diagnosed?

A doctor can often tell if you have prostatitis by asking about your symptoms and past health. Your doctor will also do a physical exam, including a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate.

Your doctor may not be able to tell what type of prostatitis you have just from your health history and symptoms. You may need tests to help find out the cause of your prostatitis.

More tests may be needed if:

  • Your symptoms don't improve with treatment.
  • You keep having prostate infections.
  • The symptoms could be caused by bladder or prostate cancer.
  • Your doctor thinks that you might have a problem related to prostatitis, such as an abscess.

Tests may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC).
  • Lab tests, such as urine and blood cultures. These check for bacteria in your urine or blood.
  • A CT scan or MRI of your pelvic area.
  • A transrectal ultrasound of your pelvic area.

How can you care for yourself when you have prostatitis?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Take warm baths to help soothe pain.
  • Straining to pass stools can hurt when your prostate is inflamed. Avoid constipation.
    • Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day. These foods are high in fiber.
    • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • Take a fiber supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil, every day if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Having a daily routine may help. Take your time and do not strain when having a bowel movement.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy or acidic foods, especially if they make your symptoms worse. Acidic foods include tomato-based products and citrus fruits or juices.

What increases your risk for prostatitis?

Things that can increase your risk for prostatitis include:

  • A recent urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • Insertion of a urinary catheter or having a cystoscopy.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Injury, such as from riding a bicycle or horse.

If you have had chronic bacterial prostatitis, you have an increased chance of developing it again.

What is prostatitis?

Prostatitis is swelling or infection of the prostate. It's often painful. The prostate lies just below your bladder and makes part of the fluid for semen. Prostatitis can be chronic (long-lasting) or, less often, acute (short-term).

What causes prostatitis?

Sometimes prostatitis is caused by bacteria. But often the cause isn't known. When bacteria are the cause, they most likely enter the prostate by traveling through the urethra. Or they may be introduced through the use of a urinary catheter.

Prostatitis: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
    • Pain or burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • Pain in the flank, which is just below the rib cage and above the waist on either side of the back.
    • Blood in your urine.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You cannot empty your bladder completely.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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