Diagram of normal prostate compared to inflamed prostate which has prostatitis

Prostatitis, or inflamed prostate, impacts over 200,000 American men a year, making it one of the most common reasons to visit a urologist. The symptoms can be similar to UTI’s and BPH, so today I’ll guide you through how to recognize prostatitis symptoms and when to see your urologist. 

Table of Contents

What is Prostatitis?

Prostatitis is a condition where the prostate gland and sometimes nearby areas become inflamed and painful. This gland, located just below the bladder, can be affected in four different ways:

  • Chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome
  • Acute bacterial prostatitis
  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis
  • Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis

Men with asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis do not have noticeable symptoms. This type is often found when testing for other urinary or reproductive issues. It does not lead to complications and does not require treatment.

What is the Prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in the male reproductive system, resembling the size and shape of a walnut. It produces a fluid that combines with sperm to form semen, playing a vital role in male fertility. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body. This gland is situated just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It consists of two or more lobes, encased in an outer tissue layer. The urethra runs through the center of the prostate, making its health crucial for both urinary and reproductive functions.

What Causes Prostatitis?

Prostatitis can be caused by various factors, depending on the type. Acute bacterial prostatitis is typically caused by a bacterial infection that can spread from the rectum or infected urine. Chronic bacterial prostatitis results from persistent bacterial infections. In cases of chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS) or nonbacterial prostatitis, the exact cause is often unclear, but potential contributors include autoimmune diseases, stress, nerve damage, and physical injury.  Additionally, infections spread through sexual contact, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can also cause prostatitis.

Types of Prostate Inflammation

Prostate inflammation comes in different forms, each with its unique causes.

Sudden Onset Prostate Inflammation

Acute bacterial prostatitis happens quickly and is usually due to a bacterial infection. Symptoms might include fever, chills, and difficulty urinating. Bacteria often travel from the urethra to the prostate, leading to the infection.

Long-Term Prostate Inflammation

Chronic bacterial prostatitis develops slowly and can last for years. This type also results from bacterial infections traveling from the urinary tract. Treatment usually involves antibiotics.

Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome

The exact cause of chronic prostatitis, also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome, remains unknown. Some theories suggest it may be linked to chemicals in urine or an immune response to a previous urinary tract infection. Nerve damage in the pelvic area might also contribute to this condition.

How Common is Prostatitis?

Prostatitis is a widespread urinary issue for men under 50 years old and ranks as the third most frequent for those over 50. Each year, about two million men in the United States seek medical attention for prostatitis. Chronic prostatitis, also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome, is the most prevalent but also the least understood type. It can affect men of any age and impacts 10% to 15% of the male population in the United States.

Who is more likely to develop prostatitis?

Men’s risk of developing prostatitis varies by type. Those with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome often have nerve damage in the lower urinary tract from surgery or trauma. Psychological stress may also contribute to this condition.

In contrast, men with acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis frequently have lower urinary tract infections (UTIs). Recurring or hard-to-treat UTIs can lead to chronic bacterial prostatitis.

Factors such as previous pelvic trauma and a history of prostatitis can further increase the likelihood of developing this condition.

Ages affected can include both young and middle-aged men.

What are the symptoms of prostatitis?

Prostatitis can present a variety of symptoms depending on the type and severity. The symptoms might mimic other health conditions, so it’s essential to understand the specifics.

Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome is marked by persistent discomfort for at least 3 months. Areas affected include:

  • Between the scrotum and anus
  • Lower central abdomen
  • Penis
  • Scrotum
  • Lower back

Men might experience pain during or after ejaculation. This pain can spread around the pelvic area, coming on suddenly or building up gradually. Other notable symptoms include:

  • Urethral pain during or after urination
  • Penile pain during or after urination
  • Frequent urination (eight or more times a day)
  • Urgency to urinate
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow

Acute Bacterial Prostatitis arises suddenly with severe symptoms requiring prompt medical attention. Symptoms encompass:

  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary urgency
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Burning sensation or pain during urination
  • Pain in the genital area, groin, lower abdomen, or lower back
  • Nocturia (frequent night urination)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General body aches
  • Urinary retention (inability to empty the bladder completely)
  • Difficulty initiating urination
  • Weak or interrupted urine stream
  • Complete urinary blockage
  • UTI indicated by bacteria and infection-fighting cells in the urine

Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis shares similar symptoms with acute bacterial prostatitis, but they are usually less intense. This condition may develop slowly, persist for 3 months or more, and either present constant mild symptoms or fluctuate. Signs of chronic bacterial prostatitis involve:

  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary urgency
  • Burning sensation or pain during urination
  • Pain in the genital area, groin, lower abdomen, or lower back
  • Nocturia
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Urinary retention
  • Trouble starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Urinary blockage
  • Presence of UTI

These symptoms, especially if persistent, can sometimes signal prostate cancer and should be examined by a healthcare provider. Seeking medical advice is crucial when these symptoms manifest to rule out serious conditions, receive proper treatment, and improve quality of life.

What are the complications of prostatitis?

Prostatitis can lead to various complications, including:

  • Bacterial infection in the bloodstream
  • Prostatic abscess, which is a pus-filled cavity
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Inflammation of nearby reproductive organs

How is prostatitis diagnosed?

Medical History of the Patient and Family

A health care provider starts by gathering a detailed medical history. This includes asking about current symptoms, past health issues, and any family history of related conditions. Understanding a patient’s personal and family medical history helps the provider identify patterns or risk factors linked to prostatitis.

Examination of the Body

Next, a thorough physical examination is conducted. During this exam, the provider checks for any discharge from the urethra, enlarged or tender lymph nodes in the groin, or a swollen, tender scrotum.

Digital Rectal Exam

As part of the physical exam, a digital rectal exam (DRE) is often performed. The provider instructs the patient to bend over a table or lie on their side with knees pulled up to the chest. The provider then inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. This exam allows the provider to detect any enlargement, tenderness, or irregularities in the prostate.

Diagnostic Tests

To get a clearer picture, several medical tests might be recommended. These tests are designed to check for signs of infection or other problems in the urinary tract and prostate.

Urine Analysis

Urinalysis involves collecting a urine sample in a special container. The sample is tested with a dipstick that changes color to indicate infection. In some cases, the sample is sent to a lab for a more detailed analysis, including a urine culture to identify any bacteria.

Blood Tests

Blood tests involve drawing a sample of blood to check for infection and other prostate-related issues. These tests can show signs of inflammation or rule out other conditions, such as prostate cancer.

Urodynamic Tests

Urodynamic tests check how well the bladder and urethra store and release urine. These tests may include:

  • Uroflowmetry: Measures how quickly urine flows from the bladder.
  • Postvoid Residual Measurement: Evaluates how much urine remains in the bladder after urination.


Cystoscopy uses a cystoscope to look inside the urethra and bladder. A urologist inserts the cystoscope through the urethra to inspect for any blockages or stones. This procedure usually requires local anesthesia.

Transrectal Ultrasound

Transrectal ultrasound is used to create images of the prostate. A transducer is inserted into the rectum to capture detailed pictures. This test helps identify abnormalities in prostate size or structure.


A biopsy involves taking a small tissue sample from the prostate. This sample is examined under a microscope to check for cancerous cells. The procedure is guided by imaging techniques and often requires sedation.

Semen Analysis

Semen analysis measures the quality and quantity of semen and sperm. The sample is tested for the presence of blood and signs of infection.

This methodical approach, combining history, physical exam, and various tests, provides a comprehensive assessment to diagnose prostatitis accurately and recommend the best treatment.

How is Prostatitis Treated?

Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome

Treatment for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome primarily focuses on reducing pain, discomfort, and inflammation. This condition presents a variety of symptoms, and no universal treatment is effective for all individuals. While antibiotics are generally ineffective for nonbacterial prostatitis, they may be initially prescribed until a bacterial infection can be ruled out. Other medications might include:

  • Silodosin (Rapaflo)
  • 5-alpha reductase inhibitors: finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium
  • Glycosaminoglycans: Chondroitin sulfate
  • Muscle relaxants: cyclobenzaprine (Amrix, Flexeril) and clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Neuromodulators: amitriptyline, nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor), and pregabalin (Lyrica)

Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments also play a vital role in managing symptoms:

  • Warm baths: Known as sitz baths.
  • Local heat therapy: Using hot water bottles or heating pads.
  • Physical therapy:
    • Kegel exercises: Pelvic Floor excercises that involve tightening and relaxing the muscles that help control urination.
    • Myofascial release: Pressing and stretching muscles and soft tissues in the lower back, pelvic region, and upper legs.
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Biofeedback
  • Phytotherapy: Using plant extracts like quercetin, bee pollen, and saw palmetto.
  • Acupuncture

Psychological Treatment

For men whose symptoms are exacerbated by psychological stress, appropriate psychiatric treatment and techniques to reduce stress may be beneficial in decreasing symptom recurrence.

Monitoring Progress

A urologist might employ the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index to measure treatment success. This questionnaire helps assess symptom severity and their impact on quality of life. It may be administered multiple times throughout the treatment process.

Acute Bacterial Prostatitis

For acute bacterial prostatitis, antibiotics are the primary form of treatment. The type and duration of antibiotics depend on the specific bacteria causing the infection. Oral antibiotics are typically prescribed for at least two weeks, but severe cases might necessitate hospitalization for intravenous (IV) antibiotics, followed by oral antibiotics for an additional 2 to 4 weeks. General recommendations include dietary adjustments, such as reducing:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Acidic and spicy foods

Increasing fluid intake to 64 to 128 ounces per day helps flush bacteria from the bladder.

Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis

Chronic bacterial prostatitis is generally treated with a longer course of antibiotics. A urologist may prescribe low-dose antibiotics for up to 6 months to avoid recurrent infections, or might try a combination of antibiotics. Patients are also encouraged to:

  • Increase fluid intake
  • Avoid bladder irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods

Alpha blockers similar to those used for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome might help relieve urinary retention. In severe cases where urinary retention persists, surgery may be necessary to remove scar tissue from the urethra to improve urine flow.


Prostatitis treatment varies significantly depending on the type and severity of the condition. Chronic forms may require a multifaceted approach, including medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. Acute bacterial prostatitis typically responds well to antibiotics and fluid management, whereas chronic bacterial cases might need prolonged antibiotic therapy and possibly surgical intervention. Each treatment strategy aims to alleviate symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.

How Can Prostatitis Be Prevented?

Prostatitis prevention remains a challenging area. Medical experts are still researching to understand the underlying causes and develop effective preventive measures. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Maintain cleanliness: Ensure proper hygiene, especially around the genital area.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting: Long periods of sitting can put pressure on the prostate.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep the urinary system healthy.
  • Safe practices: Practice safe sex to avoid infections that could affect the prostate.
  • Manage stress: Reduce stress through activities like exercise or meditation.

For now, these practices may help manage risks, but they are not guaranteed preventive strategies.

Eating, Diet, and Nutrition

For people dealing with prostatitis, adjusting their diet can be helpful. Urologists often suggest drinking more liquids and cutting back on foods and drinks that can bother the bladder. Men might benefit from talking with a healthcare provider or dietitian to figure out the best diet plan for their needs. Reducing caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol can also be beneficial.

Prostatitis vs BPH

Prostatitis is a condition where the prostate becomes inflamed, often causing pain and problems urinating. It may result from infections, typically bacterial ones.

BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) leads to prostate enlargement. This often happens with aging. An enlarged prostate can press against the urethra, making urination difficult. Treatment options for BPH include medications that target muscle relaxation and hormone balance.

Prostatitis vs Prostate Cancer

Prostatitis and prostate cancer are distinct conditions affecting the prostate. Prostatitis is a non-cancerous issue with inflammation or pain in the prostate. Prostate cancer happens when cells in the prostate grow uncontrollably. Symptoms can overlap, including frequent urination, painful urination, and weak urine stream. While diet does not cause prostatitis, doctors may advise drinking more fluids and avoiding bladder irritants during bacterial prostatitis treatment.

Prostatitis vs UTI

Prostatitis and UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) share some symptoms like painful urination and frequent urges to urinate. However, prostatitis often involves pain in the groin, pelvic area, or genitals, and may present with a high fever and pressure in the perineum. UTIs generally cause symptoms like cloudy urine. Differentiating these conditions usually requires medical tests such as urine cultures or PSA tests.

Shockwave Therapy for the Prostate

Study on Prostatitis

Clinical research shows that Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) can reduce pain and improve erectile function in patients with chronic prostatitis. This therapy has been studied for its effects on urinary symptoms, pain, and overall quality of life in men suffering from this condition. Studies show significant improvements in these areas over a period of 12 months after treatment. Findings like these lead to ongoing urology clinical trials that focus on this promising treatment.

Researchers often conduct urology clinical trials to explore new treatments for chronic prostatitis and other urological conditions. Such trials help in understanding how shockwave therapy can benefit patients with chronic pelvic pain syndrome, leading to better treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the effective treatments for prostatitis?

Treatments for prostatitis depend on the type and cause of the condition. They can include:

  • Antibiotics: Often prescribed if the cause is bacterial.
  • Pain relievers: To reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Alpha blockers: Help relax the bladder neck and muscle fibers where the prostate joins the bladder.
  • Therapies: Warm baths or prostate massages might provide relief.
  • Lifestyle changes: Improving diet, reducing stress, and drinking more water.

What are the common symptoms associated with prostatitis?

Prostatitis can present with various symptoms, including:

  • Pain or burning during urination.
  • Frequent urge to urinate, especially at night.
  • Pain in the lower back, pelvic area, or genitals.
  • Discomfort during or after ejaculation.
  • Flu-like symptoms with some types (fever, chills).

Which antibiotics are commonly prescribed for prostatitis?

Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat prostatitis that is caused by bacterial infections. Common antibiotics include:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Levofloxacin
  • Doxycycline
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

These are usually taken for several weeks to ensure the infection is fully cleared.

Can prostatitis be completely cured?

Many cases of prostatitis, particularly bacterial types, can be effectively treated with antibiotics and other treatments. Chronic prostatitis may be more challenging to treat and could require ongoing management to control symptoms.

What does it feel like to have an inflamed prostate?

Men with an inflamed prostate often experience:

  • Pain and discomfort in the pelvic area.
  • Difficulty or painful urination.
  • Painful ejaculation.
  • General aches and pains that can affect daily activities.

Does ejaculation have any effect on prostatitis symptoms?

Ejaculation can sometimes affect prostatitis symptoms. For some men, it might temporarily worsen symptoms like pain and discomfort. Others may find it relieves some tension and ache. It varies from person to person, and men should discuss this with their doctor to understand what is best for their condition.

Kia Michel, MD

Kia Michel, MD

Written by Dr. Kia Michel, a board certified urologist, surgeon, and founding member of Comprehensive Urology in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Dr. Michel's expertise includes focal therapy (HIFU/TULSA), prostate cancer treatment, robotic surgery, and male enhancement treatments such as Shockwave Therapy for ED and penile injections.

Dr. Michel's Bio

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