Prostatitis – what is it?

The prostate gland is part of a man’s reproductive system and its job is to supply some of the fluid that makes up semen.

You can see from the picture here that it’s located just under the bladder.

There are 2 types of prostatitis – acute (comes on quickly and is usually caused by a bacterial infection) and chronic (a more long term problem).  In this article we’ll talk about acute prostatitis and there are links to the article on chronic prostatitis.

What are the symptoms of acute prostatitis?

Acute prostatitis symptoms come on quickly (within about 12 hours) and include:

What tests and examinations will the doctor do for acute prostatitis?

If you have any of these symptoms don’t be shy about seeing your doctor.  If you normally see a woman doctor and would prefer to see a man, or vice versa, then ask.  Early intervention will save you a lot of physical and emotional difficulty and remember your doctor has seen it all before.  S/he wants to help.

In order to get the right diagnosis and give you the right treatment, he will want to examine you and will feel:

  • Your abdomen for any lumps, bumps or tenderness
  • Your groin for enlarged lymph nodes – these often swell if you’re fighting infection
  • Your scrotum to look for swelling or tenderness
  • Your prostate gland by doing a digital rectal exam (DRE).  You can see this in the picture here.  The doctor will put a gloved and well lubricated forefinger into the back passage to feel the gland, as you lie on your side.  It’s not very comfortable or dignified but won’t take long.
  • Test fluid from the urethra by massaging the prostate.  This fluid is examined at a lab to look for blood cells and bacteria.
  • Test urine for a test at the doctor’s office and a sample to be sent to the lab.
  • He may send a blood test for PSA (prostate specific antigen) although this is usually done before a DRE as the DRE can make the PSA level falsely high.  Having prostatitis can also make it high.
  • You may have an ultrasound scan or X-ray to rule out other problems with the urinary tract.

How is acute prostatitis treated?

  1. When your doctor is sure of the diagnosis you will probably be given antibiotics to take for 4-6 weeks.  Your doctor will probably want to see you again at the end of the course of antibiotics to check the infection has gone.

Note:    Be sure to tell your doctor if you have an allergy to any drugs

It’s essential to finish the antibiotics if the infection to be thoroughly killed off.

  1. To relieve symptoms of urinary retention (the bladder not emptying properly when you pee) you may need to use a catheter. Your health care provider will teach you how to do this.
  2. Take time to empty your bladder completely.  Urine left in the bladder can cause infection which will add to your problems.
  3. Warm baths will help to relieve pain/discomfort.
  4. Take stool softeners to make your bowel movements more comfortable if that’s been a problem.
  5. Take pain killers as needed but pay attention to the warnings on the packet and don’t exceed the allowed dose.  They will also help reduce fever.
  6. Drink plenty of fluid which will help flush out bacteria.
  7. Make sure you have a good diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to give your body the vitamins, minerals and energy to fight the infection.
  8. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and citrus foods or drinks, and avoid spicy foods, all of which can irritate the bladder.

Here is an article from Patient.co.uk about acute prostatitis.

Problems caused by prostatitis.

The infection should resolve completely with the antibiotics.

Sometimes it comes back and may be termed chronic prostatitis.

Complications include an abscess on/in the prostate, urinary retention as we discussed above or bacteria getting into the blood stream – called sepsis.

What causes acute prostatitis?

  • In most cases otherwise harmless bacteria from the gut/bowel travel into the urethra.  They can cause an infection in the bladder, kidneys, urethra or the prostate.
  • Damage to the prostate can make it more prone to infections (eg after surgery or biopsy)
  • Passing a catheter into the bladder can also introduce infection.
  • Acute prostatitis is not sexually transmitted and you cannot pass it on to a sexual partner.

The good news is that it’s a fairly unusual problem, with only about 2 in 10,000 men getting it at some point during their lifetime.

If you’re worried about your symptoms or medical problem but don’t want to seek professional help because you feel embarrassed, silly or that it’s your fault, read this page now:  How to talk to a doctor about an embarrassing problem.

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