Introduction 

Prostatitis is a general term that refers to inflammation (swelling) of the prostate gland, which is sometimes caused by an infection. It can be very painful and you'll need to see your GP.

The prostate is a small gland found only in men, which lies between the penis and the bladder (see the box on this page for more information about the prostate gland).

Symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • pain when urinating
  • pain when ejaculating semen 
  • problems urinating
  • discomfort in the pelvis, genitals, lower back and buttocks

These symptoms usually come and go over a period of months, but can sometimes start suddenly and be a medical emergency (see below).

Prostatitis can develop in men of all ages, unlike other types of prostate disease (such as prostate cancer or prostate enlargement), which usually affect older men.

Acute vs chronic prostatitis

There are two main types of prostatitis:

  • Chronic prostatitis – the most common type. Symptoms will have lasted for at least three months, although they may come and go and vary in severity. The cause isn't always clear.
  • Acute prostatitis – symptoms are severe and develop rapidly. This is caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate gland. It's a medical emergency, as without prompt treatment with antibiotics, the prostate and surrounding areas can become damaged. An estimated one in every 10,000 men will develop acute prostatitis.

Read more information about the causes of prostatitis.

Outlook

Chronic prostatitis can be challenging to treat, as little is known about the cause of the condition. In most cases, there isn't any bacterial infection.

Prostatitis caused by a bacterial infection will usually be successfully treated with antibiotics. Most men will make a full recovery within two weeks. Some men may find that symptoms return in the future, which will require further treatment.

Read more information about how prostatitis is treated.




About the prostate

The prostate is a small gland that lies between the penis and the bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis).

The prostate is involved in the production of semen. It produces a thick, white fluid that's made into a liquid by a protein called prostate-specific antigen. The liquid is then mixed with sperm, produced by the testicles, to create semen.

Page last reviewed: 28/03/2013

Next review due: 28/03/2015