Prostatitis: What Men Should Know

The American Urological Association recommends a yearly prostate exam for every man over age 40 and an immediate exam for those who develop persistent urinary symptoms.

You might not have heard of it, but prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate gland, will affect more than half of the male population at some point in their lives.


It is a sometimes serious and often painful condition that can be treated if it is diagnosed properly. Trouble is, few people have heard of it. A recent survey by the American Foundation for Urologic Disease found that only 15 percent of those who responded had heard of prostatitis, and that more women than men know about this exclusively male disease.


The incidence of infection increases with age, but prostatitis can happen at any age. The symptoms vary from one type of prostatitis to another, and the signs of the disease often mimic the symptoms of other urinary or prostate disorders, according to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease. There can be no symptoms at all, or symptoms severe enough to send men rushing to the emergency room.


Prostatitis can sometimes be confused with prostate cancer, although the two conditions are not related. While the incidence of infection increases as one gets older, prostatitis can occur in men of any age. It is not contagious.


There are three types of prostatitis: acute bacterial prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis and nonbacterial prostatitis. Diagnosing what type a person has is crucial, because treatment varies depending on the type of prostatitis.


What Are the Symptoms? Acute bacterial prostatitis and chronic bacterial prostatitis are caused by bacteria that infect the prostate. Symptoms of the acute bacterial type are severe, and they include: fever, chills, frequent urination, burning or painful urination and pain in the lower back.


Chronic bacterial prostatitis is linked to repeated urinary track infections. Other symptoms may include frequent, urgent, burning or painful urination and possibly perineal and low-back pain The non-bacterial variety may not have any symptoms, or it can have symptoms similar to chronic bacterial prostatitis.


Diagnosing and Treating Prostatitis


Fear of the unknown sometimes prevents men from seeing their doctor and getting relief. But a digital rectal examination is a quick, simple procedure that is the first step in diagnosis.


A physician inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to determine the size, shape and texture of the prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland of the male reproductive system that wraps around the urethra. Its primary function is producing fluid for semen.


The acute bacterial and chronic bacterial varieties of the disease are treatable with antibiotics, thoughchronic bacterial prostatitis often requires longer or repeated treatment. Treatment for non-bacterial prostatitis is difficult because the cause often cannot be determined. Therefore, treatment often focuses on alleviating the symptoms.

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