Part of the male reproductive system, the prostate makes most of the essential fluid in the semen. This walnut-shaped gland has two or more sections, or lobes, surrounded by an outer layer of tissue and is in front of the rectum, just under the bladder. It surrounds the urethra at the neck of the bladder, where the urethra joins the bladder. The urethra carries both urine and semen out through the penis.
Prostate glands gradually increase in size with age. If they get too large they can interfere in proper drainage of urine, which is common in men after the age of 50, and more likely as the aging process continues.
Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, is the most common prostate-related problem in men under 50. For men over the age of 50 it is prostate enlargement, also known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Prostate cancer is another health concern for men over 50, although it can occur earlier if there is a strong family history of the disease.
Prostatitis is not contagious and the symptoms are similar to those of benign prostatic hyperplasia or urethritis (inflammation of urethra).
There are three types of prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate:
- Acute infectious prostatitis
This comes on suddenly and the symptoms may be severe and include painful and frequent urination, a decreasing urinary stream and urinary retention, fever and chills and low back pain. It can be caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Chronic infectious prostatitis
This is a longer-lasting form of prostatitis and can be caused by bacteria, and worsened by nicotine, caffeine, stress and alcohol. Symptoms can include frequent urination, pain in the low back or lower abdomen and recurring bladder infections.
- Non-infectious prostatitis
This is the most common form of prostatitis. As it is not caused by a bacteria, antibiotics will be of no effect. The symptoms may be worsened by irregular sexual activity since infrequent ejaculation can cause the ducts to become blocked, and by stress, which cause the pelvis muscles to tighten and become painful. Increased pressure during urination can cause urine to back up into the ducts, leading to a form of chemical prostatitis.
What causes prostatitis?
Prostatitis is sometimes caused by bacteria, but there are other possible causes. You will need to visit a urologist to confirm whether you have prostatitis and to rule out other causes of urinary symptoms, such as kidney stones.
How is prostatitis treated?
If your prostatitis is caused by bacteria, then your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to help fight the infection. If you have recurring infections, there might be a defect in your prostate that allows bacteria to grow. This defect can normally be corrected surgically.
If you have non-bacterial prostatitis, you might be given a drug to relax the prostate’s muscle tissue. Your doctor might also advise you to take warm baths or make dietary changes.