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Prostatitis Overview

Prostatitis is the general name for an inflammation of the prostate gland, a walnut-sized organ located in front of the rectum and right below the bladder. The function of the prostate gland is to produce part of the seminal fluid, the solution that carries sperm.

More than one million patients visit their doctors every year for the treatment of prostatitis.

According to the National Institute for Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disease, prostatitis may account for up to 25 percent of all office visits by young and middle-aged men with genitourinary complaints.

Prostatitis may be acute or chronic, and may not be inflammatory. Some types of prostatitis are caused by a bacterial infection, and others are not. How the prostate becomes infected is not clearly understood.

It is possible that infected urine may flow backward from the urethra into parts of the prostate gland. Rectal bacteria may also find its way into the prostate.

Certain conditions or medical procedures increase the risk of contracting prostatitis:

  • A medical instrument, such as a urinary catheter, inserted during a medical procedure
  • Rectal intercourse
  • An abnormal urinary tract
  • A recent bladder infection
  • An enlarged prostate gland

Symptoms may develop slowly or suddenly. They may include urgent, frequent, or painful urination, and pain in the lower back, penis, scrotum, pelvis, and/or perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus).

Men who experience symptoms that are sudden and severe, and include chills and fever, should seek medical help immediately.

Diagnosing Prostatitis

The doctor will ask the patient about symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Diagnosis of prostatitis is usually based on the symptoms and digital rectal exam.

In this test, the doctor places a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the back wall of the prostate. In prostatitis, the prostate is usually tender and soft.

Tests may include:

  • Analysis of urine and prostate fluid expressed after the digital rectal exam
  • Bladder function tests

Prostatitis Treatment

Treatment for bacterial prostatitis is different from treatment for nonbacterial prostatitis, so it is very important to get the correct diagnosis. It is also important to make sure that the symptoms are not being cause d by a different urologic condition.

Physicians typically treat prostatitis with antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory drugs. In some cases, more aggressive surgical treatments are necessary.

For patient referral or consultations, contact the Department of Urology at 412-692-4100.