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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.


The prostate gland is a walnut-sized organ located behind the pubic bone and in front of the rectum in males. It's made up of smooth muscle, spongy tissue and tiny ducts and glands. The primary function of the prostate gland is to produce seminal fluid — the fluid that transports sperm.

At birth, a boy's prostate is about the size of a pea. It grows slightly during childhood and then undergoes a rapid growth spurt at puberty. By the time a man reaches age 20, his prostate is adult size. After age 45, the prostate often begins to grow again when cells in the central portion of the gland start to reproduce more rapidly than normal.

Although not technically part of your urinary system, the prostate gland is important to your urinary health. That's because the prostate surrounds the top portion of the tube that carries urine from your bladder (urethra). Normally, the location of the prostate gland isn't a problem. But infection or inflammation can cause the gland to swell, squeezing the urethra and affecting your ability to urinate. That's exactly what happens in prostatitis, although the cause of the inflammation depends on the type of prostatitis you have.

Acute bacterial prostatitis
Bacteria normally found in your urinary tract or large intestine cause this type of prostatitis. Most commonly, acute prostatitis originates in the prostate, but occasionally the infection can spread from a bladder or urethral infection.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis
It's not entirely clear what causes a chronic bacterial infection. Sometimes bacteria remain in the prostate following acute prostatitis. Catheter tubes used to drain the urinary bladder, trauma to the urinary system or infections in other parts of the body can sometimes be the source of the bacteria.

Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis
Researchers don't know the exact cause of the two types of chronic nonbacterial prostatitis, although they have a number of theories about possible triggers of the conditions, including:

  • Other infectious agents. Some experts believe nonbacterial prostatitis may be caused by an infectious agent that doesn't show up in standard laboratory tests.

  • Heavy lifting. Lifting heavy objects when your bladder is full may cause urine to back up into your prostate.

  • Certain occupations. Occupations that subject your prostate to strong vibrations, such as driving a truck or operating heavy machinery, may play a role.

  • Physical activity. Although regular exercise, especially jogging or biking, is great for the rest of your body, it may irritate your prostate gland.

  • Pelvic muscle spasm. Urinating in an uncoordinated fashion with the sphincter muscle not relaxed may lead to high pressure in the prostate and subsequent symptoms.

  • Structural abnormalities of the urinary tract. Narrowings (strictures) of your urethra may elevate pressure during urination and cause symptoms.

Risk factors

You're more likely to develop prostatitis if you're a man between the ages of 25 and 45. You may also be at increased risk if you:

  • Recently had a bladder infection or an infection of the urethra

  • Recently had a urinary catheter inserted during a medical procedure

  • Engage in unprotected anal intercourse or have a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia or gonorrhea

  • Stop and start while urinating

  • Have a job that subjects you to strong vibrations, such as driving a truck or operating heavy equipment

  • Jog or bicycle on a regular basis

Prostatitis > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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