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Prostatitis is a general term for inflammation of the prostate gland — an organ about the size and shape of a walnut, located just below the bladder in males. The prostate gland's main function is to produce semen, the fluid that helps nourish and transport sperm. An inflamed prostate can cause a variety of symptoms, including a frequent and urgent need to urinate and pain or burning when urinating (dysuria) — often accompanied by pelvic, groin or low back pain.

Prostatitis can appear in several forms. The acute form is the least common, but is also the most severe. Symptoms are often sudden, and the condition may require hospitalization. Symptoms of chronic prostatitis tend to develop more slowly and aren't as severe as those of acute prostatitis.

It's not always possible to completely eliminate prostatitis, but in many cases your symptoms can be controlled. In addition to medication, treatments such as heat therapy, biofeedback and sometimes just drinking a lot of water or avoiding certain foods can provide relief.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of prostatitis vary, depending on the cause of the inflammation.

Type I — Acute bacterial prostatitis
Signs and symptoms of this form of the disease usually come on suddenly and may include:

  • Fever and chills

  • A flu-like feeling

  • Pain in the prostate gland, lower back or genital area

  • Urinary problems, including increased urinary urgency and frequency, difficulty or pain when urinating, inability to completely empty the bladder and blood-tinged urine

  • Painful ejaculation

Acute prostatitis is a serious condition. See your doctor right away if you develop any of these signs and symptoms.

Type II — Chronic bacterial prostatitis
The signs and symptoms of this type of prostatitis develop more slowly and usually aren't as severe as those of acute prostatitis. In addition, times when symptoms are better tend to alternate with times when symptoms are worse. Signs and symptoms of chronic bacterial prostatitis include:

  • A frequent and urgent need to urinate

  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating

  • Pain in the prostate

  • Excessive urination during the night (nocturia)

  • Pain in your lower back and genital area

  • Difficulty starting or continuing to urinate, or diminished urine flow

  • Occasional blood in semen or in urine (hematuria)

  • Painful ejaculation

  • A slight fever

  • Recurring bladder infections

Type III — Chronic nonbacterial (abacterial) prostatitis
Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis is the most common form, yet it's also the least well understood. Researchers aren't even sure of the cause.

In general, the signs and symptoms of nonbacterial prostatitis are similar to those of chronic bacterial prostatitis, although you probably won't have a fever. The major difference, however, is that tests won't detect any bacteria in your urine or in fluid from your prostate gland. But you may have white blood cells in your urine and semen, depending on the type of chronic nonbacterial prostatitis. Type IIIA is inflammatory chronic nonbacterial prostatitis. Type IIIB is noninflammatory chronic nonbacterial prostatitis. White blood cells won't be present in your urine or semen in Type IIIB.

Another type of prostatitis — Type IV, or asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis — doesn't require treatment.

Other conditions
Prostatitis can be difficult to diagnose, in part because its signs and symptoms often resemble those of other conditions. For example, an infection of your bladder or urethra — the tube that carries urine from your bladder — can cause an intense urge to urinate, a burning sensation and sometimes blood in your urine, similar to the signs and symptoms of prostatitis.

Furthermore, inflammatory and noninflammatory nonbacterial prostatitis may appear to have identical signs and symptoms, with the conditions distinguished only by laboratory tests.

Prostatitis > next > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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