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Men's Health

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What Causes Prostatitis?


How the prostate becomes infected is not clear. The bacteria that cause prostatitis may get into the prostate from the urethra by backward flow of infected urine or stool from the rectum.

At one time, prostatitis was believed to be a sexually transmitted disease, but more recent research suggests that only a small number of cases are passed on through sex.

Certain conditions and medical procedures increase the risk of developing prostatitis. You are at higher risk for getting prostatitis if you:

  • Recently have had a medical instrument, such as a urinary catheter (a soft, lubricated tube used to drain urine from the bladder) inserted during a medical procedure
  • Engage in rectal intercourse
  • Have an abnormal urinary tract
  • Have had a recent bladder infection
  • Have an enlarged prostate

Other causes may include autoimmune disease (an abnormal reaction of the body to the prostate tissue).

What Are the Symptoms of Prostatitis?

You may have no symptoms of prostatitis or symptoms so sudden and severe that you seek emergency medical care.

When present, symptoms include:

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Chills and fever

Other symptoms may include pain that comes and goes low in the abdomen, around the anus, in the groin, or in the back. In some cases, bacteria can get into the vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra), causing groin pain or an infection of the epididymis (area near the testicles where sperm mature and are stored).

The prostate may swell, causing a less forceful urine stream. Sometimes blood in the urine and painful ejaculation are other symptoms of prostatitis.

Men may also complain of pelvic pain, pain during ejaculation, and pain with sexual intercourse.

How Is Prostatitis Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you have prostatitis or another prostate problem, he or she may refer you to a urologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system) to confirm the diagnosis.

Patients typically undergo a comprehensive exam, including a digital rectal exam. The doctor will be able to evaluate whether the prostate gland is enlarged or tender. Then, if the doctor is still not sure what you have, more tests may be done, such as a prostate fluid analysis for signs of infection, transrectal ultrasound, biopsy, or voiding studies. Voiding studies involve the collection and analysis of urine to determine which part of the urinary system is infected.

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