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What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small but important gland (organ) in the male reproductive system. The main role of the prostate is to make fluid that protects and feeds sperm. The prostate makes about one third of the fluid that is ejaculated (released) from the penis at orgasm (sexual climax).

Where is the prostate?

In young men the prostate is about the size of a walnut, but it gets bigger with age. The prostate sits underneath the bladder, and surrounds the top part of the urethra. Urine passes through the urethra on its way from the bladder to the penis.

A side view showing the main parts of the male reproductive system

A side view showing the main parts of the male reproductive system

What is prostate disease?

Prostate disease is any medical problem that affects the prostate gland. Common prostate problems include benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis and prostate cancer.

What is prostatitis?

Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland, which means the prostate can feel sore and irritated. Prostatitis can be caused by a bacterial infection or non-bacterial inflammation, and it can be very painful and have a major effect on quality of life.

How common is prostatitis?

Prostatitis can affect men at any age and it is thought that one in every six men have this condition at some stage during their lives.

What are the symptoms of prostatitis?

There are many symptoms of prostatitis including:

  • dysuria (painful urination)

  • urgency, the feeling of urgently needing to urinate

  • frequent and painful urination

  • painful ejaculation

  • lower back pain

  • perineal pain (pain at the base of the scrotum and penis)

  • chills

  • fever

  • muscular pain

  • general lack of energy

What are the types of prostatitis?

The main types of prostatitis are bacterial and non-bacterial prostatitis.

Bacterial prostatitis

Acute bacterial prostatitis is caused by bacteria and is the easiest form of prostatitis to diagnose and treat, although serious complications may develop if it is not treated quickly. Acute bacterial prostatitis is the least common form of prostatitis and it can be life-threatening if the infection is not treated.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis is caused by an underlying problem in the prostate, such as prostate stones or BPH (enlarged prostate), which becomes the focus for bacteria in the urinary tract. Chronic bacterial prostatitis is a common cause of frequent urinary tract infections in men.

Non-bacterial prostatitis

Chronic non-bacterial prostatitis (chronic prostate pain syndrome) is an inflamed prostate without bacteria and is the form of prostatitis that is not well understood. Urinary tract infections do not happen with this form of prostatitis. Symptoms may disappear and come back later. Stress often makes symptoms of chronic non-bacterial prostatitis worse.

What causes prostatitis?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can develop into bacterial prostatitis. Unprotected sexual intercourse can let bacteria into the urethra and the bacteria can move up to the prostate.

Other cases of bacterial prostatitis develop when there is a bladder outlet obstruction (BOO, blockage of the outlet of the bladder) that might be caused by an enlarged prostate gland. BOO can cause urinary tract infections that then spread to the prostate.

Prostatitis may also happen without bacterial infection; however the causes of non-bacterial prostatitis are not known.

Other factors that can contribute to development of prostatitis include diabetes, a suppressed immune system or a viral illness that stresses the immune system.

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