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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that lies between the penis and the bladder and produces a fluid that nourishes sperm to create semen. Prostatitis usually occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years.

It can be very painful but rest assured, it does get better with time and treatment if needed.

What are symptoms of prostatitis?

Symptoms depend on whether they have come on suddenly and severely, known as acute illness, or have persisted for months, known as chronic prostatitis.

Acute prostatitis requires immediate treatment and brings with it a pain in your penis, testicles, anus, and lower pelvic region. You may get pain passing urine, having a bowel movement or ejaculating.

You may get other urinary symptoms like urinating more often, needing to rush to the toilet, blood in your urine, or finding it difficult to urinate, which is an emergency if it continues for several hours (acute urinary retention). This is not to be mistaken for a urinary tract infection. You may feel generally unwell with a high temperature and lower back pain. In rare circumstances it can be life-threatening.

In chronic prostatitis, symptoms wax and wane over several months. It’s more common than acute prostatitis but with similar symptoms. There may be less dramatic symptoms of feeling unwell, but you may notice symptoms during sex, such as pain on ejaculating, pelvic pain afterward or difficulty getting and maintaining an erection.

You may also have nagging urinary symptoms, like getting up to pee in the night and a weak or dribbling stream. It can take its toll on your quality of life.

How did I get prostatitis?

In chronic prostatitis, the cause is less clear but acute prostatitis is usually caused by bacteria entering the prostate from any organ in the urinary system.

You're more at risk of acute prostatitis if you have:

  • had a recent urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • anal sex
  • a urinary catheter
  • HIV or AIDS
  • had a biopsy of your prostate
  • an injury to your pelvis

It’s more likely in older men, if you’ve had it before, have been sexually abused or suffer from other painful abdominal issues like irritable bowel syndrome.

What will my doctor do?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any treatments you’ve already tried, and they will examine your abdomen, your groin area, and your rectum. A digital rectal examination is where a gloved finger is placed into your rectum, from where they can feel the prostate gland and determine its size and surface to aid in diagnosis. If you have prostatitis, this may cause you pain, but it helps the doctor to determine if the prostate feels enlarged or unusual.

A sample of urine will be taken to check for any urine infection or STD, particularly chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Chronic prostatitis is sometimes referred to a specialist called a urologist. Acute prostatitis is usually referred straight to the hospital.

What is the treatment for prostatitis?

  • Acute prostatitis requires a two to four week course of antibiotics and regular painkillers.
  • If you are very unwell or have acute urinary retention, you may be admitted to the hospital and have a catheter inserted.
  • Painkillers are the mainstay of managing symptoms of chronic prostatitis, symptoms improve given some time.
  • Your doctor may consider prescribing antibiotics, as any infection won’t always show up on tests.
  • Alpha blocker tablets are considered if you’re having difficulty passing urine, to help relax the muscles around the prostate gland.
  • Laxatives may have a place, if you are straining and that is adding to your pain.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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