What is Prostatitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Prostatitis?

Prostatitis is a condition that causes swelling in a male patient’s prostate glands below the bladder. The prostate gland produces semen that nourishes and transports sperm. Although this condition occurs in men of all ages, it is more common in men younger than 50. Prostatitis makes it difficult to urinate and it may cause other symptoms including pain in the pelvic area, the groin or the genitals. The pain may occur gradually or very suddenly. It may improve on its own or the patient may require medication. Prostatitis can cause complications with fertility and sexual dysfunction. Abscesses may develop on the gland and the patient may suffer from a bacterial infection in the blood.

Symptoms of Prostatitis

There are different forms of prostatitis with distinct symptoms and causes. Specifically, there are four different types: chronic prostatitis, chronic bacterial, acute bacterial and asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis.

Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS)

This is the most common type of prostatitis, representing more than 90 percent of cases. However, chronic prostatitis is not a result of a bacterial infection. There are two types: inflammatory and noninflammatory. In the former, the patient has white blood cells in the urine, prostate secretions and semen. But it does not cause any obvious signs of infection. In the latter, the patient does not have white blood cells in secretions and they do not show signs of infection.

frequent urge to urinate

Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis

urinary tract infection (UTI)back pain

Acute Bacterial Prostatitis


Asymptomatic Inflammatory Prostatitis

Unlike other types, men with asymptomatic prostatitis have inflammation in the prostate gland, but do not show any symptoms. There are white blood cells, but usually the patient discovers them during a medical examination for a separate condition, such as sexual dysfunction.

Complications from Prostatitis

There are several complications associated with prostatitis including sexual dysfunction or infertility and inflammation in the reproductive organs. It may also cause abscesses in the prostate glands or a bacterial infection in the blood.


Causes of Prostatitis

Researchers have not determined a specific cause for most cases of prostatitis. Typically, there is inflammation in the body that affects the pelvic region and causes pain. In other cases, it may develop from a bacterial infection, but this is less common. Bacteria from the urinary tract—which includes the kidneys, ureters and urethra—may enter the prostate if infected urine flows backwards through the urethra.

Risk Factors for Prostatitis

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of contracting acute prostatitis, including:

Urinary tract infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STI)

Urinary catheters

Pelvic injury


Prostate biopsies

Problems with the urinary tract

Anal sex

irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Diagnosing Prostatitis

Diagnosis usually requires a physical exam and medical tests. The tests often aim to rule out other health conditions with similar symptoms. The doctor will also ask about the patient’s medical history or family history to determine if they have any risk factors for prostatitis.

Physical Exam

The doctor will examine the patient to check for urethral discharge, inflammation or swelling in the lymph nodes in the groin and inflammation in the scrotum. Typically, the doctor performs a rectal exam. The patient bends over a table or lies down on their side with the knees pulled close to the chest. Then the doctor examines part of the prostate through the rectum. Doctors perform this test to determine if the prostate is enlarged, tender or has any other abnormalities that may require additional tests.

Additional Diagnostic Tests

Doctors may perform additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, including blood tests, urinalysis and cystoscopy. The doctor may also perform a biopsy, semen analysis, ultrasound and urodynamic tests.

Blood Test

Usually patients undergo a blood test first to detect problems with the prostate gland. The doctors can measure levels of a protein that only exists in the prostate gland, prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Physicians also perform this test to rule out prostate cancer.


In a urinalysis, doctor tests a urine sample for signs of infection. The patient may need to provide two or three samples and the doctor will massage the prostate in between urination streams. If there are only signs of infection in the first sample, the infection is probably in the urethra. But if there are signs of infection in the second or third sample, the infection is most likely in the prostate.

Urodynamic Tests

Urodynamic tests are a series of procedures that determine how effectively the bladder and urethra store and release urine. If it does not hold urine effectively or release it steadily and completely, it may be a sign of infection. The test may measure bladder pressure and how fast the bladder releases urine. Another test may measure how much urine remains in the bladder after urination.


In this medical exam, doctors use a device called a cystoscope to check the inside of the urethra and the bladder. The doctor inserts the device into the urinary tract through the opening of the penis.

Abdominal & Transrectal Ultrasound

In an ultrasound, a physician uses a transducer to create an image of different organ structures. An abdominal ultrasound creates the image over the abdomen, but for a transrectal ultrasound, the doctor inserts the device into the rectum next to the prostate. The procedure helps check for signs of abnormalities and infection in the prostate glands.


For a biopsy, the doctor takes small tissue samples of the prostate glands for examination in a lab. The urologist uses imaging technologies to insert the biopsy needle into the prostate gland.

Semen Analysis

As the name suggests, this procedure measures the amount and quality of semen and sperm. The physician gives a patient a container and asks him to collect a semen sample. The doctor takes it to a lab to inspect it for blood or signs of infection.

Treatment for Prostatitis

Patients receive treatment depending on the type of prostatitis. For chronic prostatitis, treatment is designed to relieve pain and inflammation with medication, such as muscle relaxants or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Antibiotics can help treat acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis. An acute case may require antibiotics for six to eight weeks, but chronic cases typically require longer courses.

Alternative Remedies for Prostatitis

Patients with chronic prostatitis may benefit from alternative remedies combined with traditional medical treatment. Taking a warm bath or applying heat therapy with a heating pad or a hot water bottle may help ease discomfort. Physical therapy may be useful as well, including kegel exercises or myofascial release. Some patients may also find relief through relaxation exercises, phytotherapy or acupuncture. Patients should use alternative remedies with a doctor’s permission in conjunction with the medical treatment that the physician advises.

Supplements for Prostate Health

Dietary supplements may also help reduce symptoms of prostatitis. They can also help benefit overall health, including prostate health. However, they are not designed to cure any medical condition. But with other forms of treatment, they may be able to keep the body healthy to fight infection.

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Bottom Line

Prostatitis is a condition that causes swelling in the prostate glands. It causes symptoms such as urgent and painful urination, weak urine stream and painful ejaculation. There are four different types of prostatitis—chronic, acute bacterial, chronic bacterial and asymptomatic inflammatory. Each form has a different cause and different method for treatment. Patients may require antibiotics to get rid of the infection and alternative remedies may also help, such as applying heat and physical therapy. Supplements may also help with prostate health and reduce inflammation. However, supplements are not a cure for any medical condition and patients should not take supplements without permission from a doctor.

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