Prostatitis describes a wide range of disorders that can affect the prostate. There are four main types of prostate syndromes. The most serious of these is referred to as acute bacterial prostatitis. As its name implies, this syndrome is caused by bacteria and tends to come on suddenly. It can be quite painful, but fortunately it’s fairly easy to diagnose and treat. A urinalysis will reveal white blood cells and bacteria in the urine. Symptoms of acute bacterial prostatitis can include fever, chills, pain in the lower back and genital area, and burning or painful urination.
A second form of prostatitis is called chronic bacterial prostatitis. Although this condition is also caused by bacteria, it does not occur suddenly, but gradually gets worse over time. Men with this condition may experience recurring bladder infections. Causes can include incomplete emptying of the bladder, stones in the bladder or prostate, or defects in the bladder or prostate that allow bacteria to persist in the urinary tract. Usually the prostate is normal or somewhat tender when examined.
Another form of prostatitis is called chronic nonbacterial prostatitis, or chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Men with this condition may experience bothersome urinary tract symptoms or pain in the pelvis or perineum. This condition is found in men of any age from the late teens on, and the symptoms tend to come and go without warning. This condition may be inflammatory or non-inflammatory. In the inflammatory form, urine, semen, and other fluids from the prostate show no evidence of bacteria, but do contain cells produced to fight infection, known as white blood cells. In the non-inflammatory form, there is no evidence of bacteria, inflammation, or white blood cells.
A final type of prostatitis is called asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis. In this case, the patient experiences no symptoms, but infection-fighting white blood cells are present in the prostatic secretions. It is often diagnosed when a doctor is looking for causes of infertility or is testing for prostate cancer.
In most cases, antibiotics are used to treat prostatitis. The duration of the treatment can vary from several weeks to several months, depending on the specific diagnosis. Prostatitis is generally not considered contagious, and the vast majority of cases are not spread through sexual contact.