Prostatitis is swelling of the prostate gland. Prostate tissue becomes inflamed. This problem can be caused by an infection with bacteria.
Acute prostatitis starts quickly. Long-term (chronic) prostatitis lasts for 3 months or more.
Ongoing irritation of the prostate that is not caused by bacteria is called chronic nonbacterial prostatitis.
Any bacteria that can cause a urinary tract infection can cause acute bacterial prostatitis.
- Certain sexual practices, such as having anal sex without wearing a condom
- Having many sexual partners
In men over age 35, E coli and other common bacteria most often cause prostatitis. This type of prostatitis may begin in the:
- Epididymis, a small tube that sits on top of the testes.
- Urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder and out through the penis.
Acute prostatitis may also be caused by problems with the urethra or prostate, such as:
- Blockage that reduces or prevent the flow of urine out of the bladder
- Foreskin of the penis that cannot be pulled back (phimosis)
- Injury to the area between the scrotum and anus (perineum)
- Urinary catheter, cystoscopy, or prostate biopsy (removing a piece of tissue to look for cancer)
Men age 50 or older who have an enlarged prostate have a higher risk for prostatitis. The prostate gland may become blocked. This makes it easier for bacteria to grow. Symptoms of chronic prostatitis can be similar to symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland.
Symptoms can start quickly, and can include:
- Flushing of the skin
- Lower stomach tenderness
- Body aches
Symptoms of chronic prostatitis are similar, but not as severe. They often begin more slowly. Some people have no symptoms between episodes of prostatitis.
Urinary symptoms include:
- Blood in the urine
- Burning or pain with urination
- Difficulty starting to urinate or emptying the bladder
- Foul-smelling urine
- Weak urine stream
Other symptoms that may occur with this condition:
- Pain or aching in the abdomen above the pubic bone, in the lower back, in the area between the genitals and anus, or in the testicles
- Pain with ejaculation or blood in the semen
- Pain with bowel movements
Exams and Tests
During a physical exam, your health care provider may find:
- Enlarged or tender lymph nodes in your groin
- Fluid released from your urethra
- Swollen or tender scrotum
The provider may perform a digital rectal exam to examine your prostate. During this exam, the provider inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum. The exam should be done very gently to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria into the blood stream.
The exam may reveal that the prostate is:
- Large and soft (with a chronic prostate infection)
- Swollen, or tender (with an acute prostate infection)
Prostatitis may affect the results of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a blood test to screen for prostate cancer.
Antibiotics are often used to treat prostate infections.
- For acute prostatitis, you will take antibiotics for 2 to 6 weeks.
- For chronic prostatitis, you will take antibiotics for at least 2 to 6 weeks. Because the infection can come back, you may need to take medicine for up to 12 weeks.
Often, the infection will not go away, even after taking antibiotics for a long time. Your symptoms may come back when you stop the medicine.
If your swollen prostate gland makes it hard to empty your bladder, you may need a tube to empty it. The tube may be inserted through your abdomen (suprapubic catheter) or through your penis (indwelling catheter).
To care for prostatitis at home:
- Urinate often and completely.
- Take warm baths to relieve pain.
- Take stool softeners to make bowel movements more comfortable.
- Avoid substances that irritate your bladder, such as alcohol, caffeinated foods and drinks, citrus juices, and hot or spicy foods.
- Drink more fluid (64 to 128 ounces or 2 to 4 liters per day) to urinate often and help flush bacteria out of your bladder.
Get checked by your provider after you finish taking your antibiotic treatment to make sure the infection is gone.
Acute prostatitis should go away with medicine and minor changes to your diet and behavior.
It may come back or turn into chronic prostatitis.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have symptoms of prostatitis.
Not all types of prostatitis can be prevented. Practice safe sex behaviors.
Chronic prostatitis - bacterial; Acute prostatitis
Ferri FF. Prostatitis. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:1077-1077.
McGowan CC, Krieger J. Prostatitis, epididymitis, and orchitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 112.
Quick CRG, Reed JB, Harper SJF, Saeb-Parsy K, Deakin PJ. Disorders of the prostate. In: Quick CRG, Reed JB, Harper SJF, Saeb-Parsy K, Deakin PJ, eds. Essential Surgery: Problems, Diagnosis and Management. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 35.
US Department of Health and Human Services; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Prostatitis: inflammation of the prostate. www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/prostate-problems/prostatitis-inflammation-prostate. Updated July 2014. Accessed September 27, 2017.
Review Date 8/26/2017
Updated by: Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.