July 29, 2004 -- Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is suffering from a chronic prostate infection, according to wire reports. Although the condition is common among older men, the deposed dictator has reportedly refused to undergo a biopsy to rule out prostate cancer.
Appearing on the Arab news network Al Jazeera, an Iraqi official said X-rays and blood tests by U.S. military doctors do not indicate anything more serious than a prostate infection, and Hussein is otherwise in good health.
But the imprisoned Hussein, who is 67, has refused American officials' requests for a biopsy to eliminate the possibility of prostate cancer.
Prostatitis is often described as an infection of the prostate, but it can also be an inflammation with no sign of infection. Acute prostatitis occurs from a sudden bacterial infection. But Hussein reportedly has what's known as chronic prostatitis. Chronic (long-lasting) prostatitis is the most common form of the disease, usually caused by bacteria.
What Causes Prostatitis?
How the prostate becomes infected is not clearly understood. The bacteria that cause prostatitis may get into the prostate through the urethra by backward flow of infected urine into the prostate or stool from the rectum.
At one time, prostatitis was believed to be a sexually transmitted disease, but more recent research suggests only a small number of cases are transmitted 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 anal intercourse
- Have an abnormal urinary tract
- Have had a recent bladder infection
- Have an enlarged prostate
Other causes include autoimmune disease (an abnormal reaction by the body to the prostate tissue).
Who Gets Prostatitis?
Prostatitis can affect men of all ages. It is estimated that prostatitis may affect 50% of men during their lifetimes.
What Are the Symptoms of Prostatitis?
There may be no symptoms 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 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 (an 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.
How Is Prostatitis Diagnosed?
If a doctor suspects prostatitis or another prostate problem, he or she may refer the patient 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 examination including a digital rectal exam. More tests, such as a biopsy, urine studies, or MRI may be needed. Voiding studies involve the collection and analysis of urine to determine which part of the urinary system is infected.
What Is the Treatment for Prostatitis?
Treatments vary among urologists and are tailored according to the type of prostatitis you have. Correct diagnosis is crucial because each type of prostatitis is treated differently, and it's important to make sure your symptoms are not caused by urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) or another condition that may lead to permanent bladder or kidney damage.
Treatments generally include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines along with warm sitz baths (sitting in 2-3 inches of warm water). This is the most conservative treatment for chronic prostatitis.
- Antibiotic medicine for prostatitis due to infection.
- Pain medications.
- Surgical removal of the infected portions of the prostate may be advised for severe cases of chronic prostatitis or for men whose swollen prostate is blocking the flow of urine.
- Other treatments for prostatitis include the use of drugs to shrink the prostate and relieve urination difficulties.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Chronic Prostatitis?
Chronic prostatitis affects men differently, with varying degrees of discomfort or pain. Prostatitis is not a contagious disease. You can live your life normally and continue sexual relations without passing it on. Having prostatitis does not increase your risk of developing prostate cancer or any other prostate or kidney disease. But even if your prostatitis is cured, you should continue to have regular examinations to detect prostate cancer.