It may be one of the smallest organs in the human body, but the prostate gland can cause some serious problems. It’s one of the most common sources of medical trouble for middle-aged American men. It’s not just prostate cancer, either. Enlarged prostate and prostatitis are curable and non-carcinogenic conditions, but they can both cause a real headache.
The simpler of the two problems is benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate. This can cause urination problems, including issues with flow and frequency. However, it’s not generally painful, and treatment comes relatively easily. Prostatitis, on the other hand, can be significantly more problematic.
What is Prostatitis?
Prostatitis is an infection of the prostate which causes the prostate’s tissue to get inflamed and enlarged. This can be incredibly painful, and may impede regular flow of urine and semen. Prostatic fluid can start to build up, leading to aching pains, and urine and ejaculation become intensely painful experiences – so much so that sufferers often give up sex entirely.
Prostatitis breaks down into four types, each with their own symptoms, causes, and treatment regimens. We’ll now go over each individually.
1. Non-Bacterial Prostatitis
Non-bacterial prostatitis (NBP) is by far the most common type of prostatitis, with 3 million cases every year in the US alone. However, scientists aren’t certain exactly what causes it. Unlike the conditions listed below, it’s not bacterial. Chlamydia and viral infection have been suggested.
In NBP, the prostate tissue becomes inflamed and swollen, which it also puts pressure on the bladder, causing frequent and painful urination. Sufferers may experience aches and pains throughout the groin: penis, testicles, and rectum. It may also cause fever, chills, and other common infection symptoms.
The difficulty determining a cause also makes it difficult to detect and treat. People suffering from NBP do present with a higher white blood cell count than normal, so that can be used for detection. And of course, antibiotics aren’t helpful in treating the condition. Instead, a more natural solution, is suggested. As there’s no worry of spreading bacteria, this is when prostate massage becomes useful.
2. Acute Bacterial Prostatitis
As you might expect, acute bacterial prostatitis (ABP) comes from a bacterial infection that spreads to the prostate gland. Most frequently, this is a bladder infection caused by digestive system bacteria like E. Coli, Proteus, Enterobacteria, Pseudomonas, Enterococcus, or a similar pathogen. Most of these bacteria are relatively harmless if they stay in the digestive system, as they get broken down by stomach juices and natural bacteria in the intestines – but if they escape, they can infect the prostate or other organs.
ABP’s symptoms are similar to NBP, but, because it is bacterial in origin, it’s easier to detect, with a test of bodily fluids or with a rectal exam. It’s also relatively easy to treat with a regimen of antibiotics, followed by a follow-up test to ensure the infection is gone and the prostate is back to normal.
Some people will attempt to relieve the symptoms of prostate infections with a prostate massage. This should never be done if the infection is bacterial, as it can spread the bacteria to other parts of the body, causing sepsis.
3. Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis
Chronic bacterial prostatitis (CBP) is similar to ABP, in that it’s caused by infection, and so often displays many of the same symptoms. However, unlike ABP, the infection that causes it is a chronic condition – in other words, a condition that the patient has experienced over a long time.
As with many chronic conditions, they last longer, but the symptoms are less severe, making it more difficult to detect. Symptoms to be on the lookout for include blood in the urine; frequent, short urinations; pain during urination, defecation, or ejaculation; pain in the lower back or groin; and a low-grade fever.
CBP is treated in a similar method to ABP, with a round of antibiotics. Again, prostate massage is strongly discouraged, as it can lead to sepsis.
4. Asymptomatic Inflammatory Prostatitis
As the name suggests, asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis (AIP) is the black sheep of the prostatitis family, displaying no visible symptoms. Despite the inflammation, there is no pain, no blood, no fever, or any other problems. The only sign of an infection is the same pattern of increased white blood cell count visible in the other forms, which, as with NBP, is the only way of confirming a diagnosis.
While this may sound innocuous, AIP can actually prove to be the most concerning of the prostatitis family of conditions. The increased white blood cell count is also an early symptom of prostate cancer. So, because it doesn’t actually have any symptoms that impact daily life, no specific treatment regimen is required – but it’s a condition that must be monitored to see if anything develops.