Prostatitis is often described as an infection of the prostate. It can also be an inflammation with no sign of infection. Just 5% to 10% of cases are caused by bacterial infection. It does not raise the risk of getting prostate cancer.
Prostatitis can affect men of all ages. According to the National Institutes of Health, prostatitis may account for up to 25% of all office visits for complaints involving the genital and urinary systems from young and middle-aged men. In fact, chronic prostatitis (which means it doesn't go away) is the number-one reason men under the age of 50 visit a urologist. In some cases, chronic prostatitis follows an attack of acute prostatitis. Chronic prostatitis may also be related to other urinary tract infections.
The primary symptom of chronic infectious prostatitis is usually repeated bladder infections. Prostatitis is considered chronic if it lasts more than three months.
Types of prostatitis include:
- Acute bacterial prostatitis. A sudden bacterial infection marked by inflammation of the prostate. This is the least common form of prostatitis but the symptoms are usually severe. Patients with this condition have an acute urinary tract infection with increased urinary frequency and urgency, a need to urinate a lot at night, and have pain in the pelvis and genital area. They often have fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and burning when urinating. Acute bacterial prostatitis requires prompt treatment, as the condition can lead to bladder infections, abscesses in the prostate or, in extreme cases, completely blocked urine flow. Left untreated, the condition can cause confusion and low blood pressure, and may be fatal. The condition is usually treated in the hospital with intravenous antibiotics, pain relievers, and fluids.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis. This condition is the result of recurrent urinary tract infections that have entered the prostate gland. It is thought to exist for several years in some men before producing symptoms. The symptoms are similar to acute bacterial prostatitis, but are less severe and can fluctuate in intensity. The diagnosis of this condition is often challenging. It's often difficult to find the bacteria in the urine. Treatment includes antibiotics for four to 12 weeks and other treatment for pain. Sometimes men are given suppressive low-dose, long-duration antibiotic therapy.
- Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome. This is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90% of the cases. The condition is marked by urinary and genital pain for at least three of the past six months. Patients have no bacteria in their urine, but may have other signs of inflammation. The condition can be confused with interstitial cystitis (a chronic inflammation of the bladder).
What Causes Prostatitis?
How the prostate becomes infected is not clear. The bacteria that cause prostatitis may get into the prostate from the urethra by backward flow of infected urine or stool from the rectum.