what is prostatitis?
Prostatitis is any of a number of prostate conditions generally characterized by inflammation and infection of the prostate gland, though this isn’t always the case. Because the triggers and symptoms can vary, prostatitis is often broken down further into several different specific variations. These are Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis (CBP), Acute Bacterial Prostatitis (ABP), Non-Bacterial Prostatitis (NBP; also known as Asymptomatic Inflammatory Prostatitis), and Pelvic Floor Myalgia (PFM; also known as Prostatodynia).
What Causes Prostatitis?
The causes of prostatitis can vary, but is most often caused by bacteria taking up residence in the prostate gland. This bacteria often the same bacteria that is also found in bladder infections, such as Proteus, E. Coli, and Klebsiella. Prostatitis can also form as the result of a sexually transmitted disease or in patients with a history of such diseases.
In other cases in could be the result of a backward flow of urine into the prostate, which itself can be caused by a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, or an instrument being pushed into the urethra. Stress may also cause or contribute to the condition, as can gastro-intestinal disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. In some cases the exact causes of prostatitis are not known. This is true of both PFM and NBP. With these specific variants, there are no signs of bacteria or inflammation. In the case of NBP, it’s thought that other organisms are the cause of the condition, though these haven’t yet been identified. It’s also thought that clogging of the prostate ducts could cause or contribute to NBP.
Because of the continuing mystery surrounding many of the symptoms and causes of prostatitis, it’s not always easy for sufferers and doctors alike to properly diagnose the condition.
Types of Prostatitis
Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis (CBP) – Chronic bacterial prostatitis is probably the least serious incidence of prostatitis, owing to the fact that its symptoms are not severe, its causes are known, and treatments to deal with it are relatively simple. Still, owing to the variety of symptoms it can spawn, it isn’t always easy for doctors to make a diagnosis of this condition. Symptoms can be broad, such as fatigue headaches, or general aches and pains, as well as fever. Some of the symptoms more specific to prostatitis can include sexual dysfunction, and numerous urinary related issues such as weak urine stream.
Acute Bacterial Prostatitis (ABP) – Acute bacterial prostatitis is similar in regards to symptoms to chronic bacterial prostatitis, but the symptoms develop quickly and can be quite severe. Acute bacterial prostatitis is the most common form of prostatitis, and the onset of this form of prostatitis will lead most sufferers to quickly seek medical treatment. ABP is also more likely to develop into further complications owing to the severity of the inflammation and the effect this can have on the surrounding organs and tissues. This condition is aggressively treated by medical professionals to ensure the condition cannot worsen and spread, with pain medication provided to ease those suffering from severe pain.
Non-Bacterial Prostatitis (NBP) – This form of prostatitis is very similar to chronic bacterial prostatitis, save for the fact that it isn’t caused by any known bacteria, though inflammation is still present. As it isn’t caused by bacteria, it cannot be treated in the same way as CBP, but must be tackled with a more holistic approach. This includes positive general life changes such as a better diet and abstinence from certain things known to aggravate the prostate. This includes alcohol and spicy foods. Soaking in warm baths is also recommended, as are prostate massages.
Pelvic Floor Myalgia (PFM) – Like NBP, pelvic floor myalgia or prostatodynia, is not caused by bacteria, and the causes are still mostly shrouded in mystery. Also unlike the other forms of prostatitis, there is no sign of inflammation in the prostate gland from this condition. It results in other symptoms as well, most notably severe and chronic pain in the lower back and scrotum. Pain is also common when ejaculating and urinating, and while passing stool. The condition may also lead to chronic fatigue.
Tests and Diagnosis for Prostatitis
Diagnosing prostatitis will often begin with a full background check of your life style, including your eating habits, sex life, and medical history. This information should be able to provide your doctor with some valuable clues to help him narrow down the possible condition. Depending on the symptoms and their severity, the doctor may first consider other conditions, and give you treatment options for those. In the event those are unsuccessful, a diagnosis of prostatitis is far more likely.
If prostatitis is suspected, a Direct Rectal Examination (DRE) will most likely be in order. During this procedure the doctor will insert his lubricated, gloved hand into your rectum, and gently reach in until he comes to your prostate gland. He will then examine the prostate gland for any abnormalities. The size and texture in particular will give him a good idea about the general health of your prostate. He will also gently press the prostate gland so that the tip of the penis releases a small amount of prostatic fluid. Testing this fluid will provide even greater clues as to as any possible bacteria or inflammation that is affecting the prostate. Urine samples will also be taken before and after the procedure, and these should provide further indication as to the extent of the problem and its origins.
If your doctor can’t make a positive diagnosis of prostatitis he may need to send you to a urology clinic for further testing. There, you’ll undergo another procedure called a cystoscopy, which allows the doctor to look inside the bladder and urethra. This can help pinpoint the origin of the problem in the event the symptoms are prostate related, but are actually originating from elsewhere, which could lead to the condition returning even after successful treatment.
Potential Complications Arising from the Existence or Treatment of Prostatitis
Whenever there’s bacteria in the body, there’s always a serious risk that this bacteria will spread to other parts of the body, including regions where it could do even more harm. This is true of prostatitis, as untreated bacteria in the prostate could eventually reach and travel through the bloodstream.
Other potential complications from the existence of prostatitis include abnormalities in the semen, which could lead to infertility; a pus-filled cavity forming in the prostate, which is called a prostatic abcess, and can lead to several serious symptoms of its own, and often requires surgery to drain; and epididymitis, which is inflammation of the tube attached to the testicle.
Treatments of various conditions can often lead to their own potential complications as well, and some popular prostatitis treatments are no different in this regard. Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for any form of bacterial prostatitis, and these can result in several complications, depending on the exact drug being administered and the patient. Fever and nausea are common side effects of taking antibiotics, as is diarrhea. Antibiotics can also negatively interact with other drugs and substances, such as alcohol, making the avoidance of these vital.
While the existence of prostatitis can lead to increased PSA levels, which often indicates the presence of prostate cancer, it should be noted that prostatitis itself does not lead to the formation of prostate cancer. The symptoms are not considered life threatening, even when severe, but are mainly discomforting for the sufferer.
Prostatitis can present its fair share of challenges. It can difficult to assess, effective treatment plans are not always known and may have to be changed if results aren’t satisfactory, and the symptoms can return if the root cause of the formation of the condition is not dealt with.
Yet we continue to learn more and more about this condition as our knowledge of the prostate increases, and its importance has continued to grow in medical circles (it’s now considered a male’s second heart). Once diagnosed, the condition can often be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Still, we recommend you take steps to improve your prostate health by eating healthier, cutting back on prostate antagonists such as alcohol and caffeine, and giving your prostate a regular workout courtesy of sexual activity. Doing so can only help keep your prostate healthy and less susceptible to prostatitis.