Prostatitis: Explaining the Causes and Treatments
If you’ve got prostatitis, you know it’s not fun. Even in mild cases, inflammation or infection of the prostate can cause painful urination or ejaculation disorders. In more serious cases, you may also experience muscle aches, fever and chills. Prostatitis can also cause urinary urgency and frequency, as well as pain in the prostate (located behind the penis) or in the lower back or the genital area. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all — just an inflamed prostate that may not even require treatment.
It’s a very common condition. According to some estimates, prostatitis is the cause of almost 2 million hospital visits every year in the United States. So, as you might imagine, I get asked a lot of questions about prostatitis. Here are a few of them.
What causes prostatitis?
There are different types of prostatitis, with different causes. If you have a bacterial form of the condition, it could be the result of a bacterial infection from the urinary tract, including from a sexually transmitted disease. This is the kind of prostatitis that can interfere with male fertility. If you have the nonbacterial form, which accounts for about 95% of all prostatitis cases, it can stem from a prior infection, an injury, or from clenching or spasms of the pelvic floor muscles.
Sometimes prostatitis can be linked to certain jobs or physical activities, although it can be difficult to pinpoint a cause. For example, if you do heavy lifting while you have a full bladder, it can cause urine to back up into the prostate. Jobs that expose you to heavy vibrations, such as operating heavy machinery, may also raise your risk level. And cycling can irritate the prostate, so be sure to use a bike seat that’s prostate-friendly.
How is prostatitis treated?
The best treatment may depend on the type of prostatitis you have. You might get some combination of the following treatments:
- Medications, such as antibiotics, pain relievers, muscle relaxants and alpha blockers, which help with blood flow.
- Physical therapy and exercise.
- Hot baths, which can reduce pain and relax the lower abdominal muscles.
- Surgical procedures to open blocked ducts if you have a bacterial form of prostatitis and antibiotics don’t provide relief.
- Other treatments, which don’t yet have a lot of clinical evidence to back them up, include using a drug called Proscar to lower hormone levels in the prostate.
What else should I do if I have prostatitis?
If you know you have prostatitis, you should cut back on alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as they can irritate the prostate through frequent urination. Tobacco and spicy foods should also be avoided, and you’ll want to avoid sitting, bouncing or heavy vibrations. For example, biking would be a bad idea.
Above all, if you think you may have prostatitis, see your doctor, even if the symptoms seem manageable.