What is Prostatitis?
Medically reviewed by Dr. Paul Song M.D
Prostatitis is a complex condition affecting many men of all ages. There are several types of prostatitis and many different causes. Prostatitis can cause significant discomfort and pain. It can affect a man’s sexual health, with research showing that 73% of patients reporting some kind of sexual dysfunction related to their prostatitis. It can also cause urinary and other related problems. Some types of prostatitis are caused by bacteria, but most prostatitis sufferers have a more chronic type of prostatitis known as “chronic pelvic pain syndrome” (CPPS), which can be caused by a multitude of factors that include stress, anxiety, tension, diet, and lifestyle. Knowing this is key in understanding prostatitis and can help in finding treatment. Long-term chronic prostatitis can be a troubling and bewildering condition for doctors and urologists to explain and treat.
Affecting 95% of prostatitis patients, CPPS is the most common prostatitis disorder. Traditionally CPPS treatment has been focused on treating the prostate itself and giving antibiotics even when no bacteria are present. Doctors and urologists today are finding more success in applying multimodal (using many different methods) “whole body” approaches to dealing with this difficult health problem. This treatment model combines naturopathic treatments, traditional medicine, and alternative treatments. Despite this, there are still many physicians who continue to refer to pelvic pain as prostatitis and treat men’s complaints of pelvic pain and urinary dysfunction as if the symptoms are caused by an infection or inflammation of the prostate.
It is baffling to many men and their doctors that most diagnosed cases of CPPS have nothing wrong with the prostate gland itself. In careful studies conducted over the past decades of treating the prostate, the majority of men treated with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs aimed at treating the prostate gland derive no lasting relief from treatment.
Most cases of CPPS are caused by problems due to chronically tightened pelvic muscles. Basically it is like having a “charley horse” up inside the pelvis. That can be the result of chronic stress, anxiety, or even weaknesses or tightness in the muscles. Much research has shown that approximately 90–95% of the men who seek help for pelvic pain have no prostate pathology and no infection found when cultured. Even inflammation is not the sole cause of symptoms because the men who have inflammation (evidence of white cells found in the prostatic fluid) still have their symptoms remain even after the inflammation is removed.
When you see “-itis” at the end of a condition, it usually refers to an inflammatory disease, but not in the case of prostatitis. The majority of symptoms that get diagnosed as “prostatitis” really have nothing to do with an “itis” of the prostate. Recognizing this is key to beginning to understand this complex condition and is one of the reasons why traditional treatments (like antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs) do not work.
Prostatitis can cause discomfort and problems that are related to the genital, rectal, and perineal areas. It can lead to urinary symptoms and can even make sitting very difficult. Some men feel as if they are sitting on a golf ball. All of these pains and symptoms can have nothing to do with the prostate gland in many prostatitis suffers.
Prostatitis is more common than you think, as half of all men experience prostatitis at some point. But not all men talk about it or are too embarrassed to discuss it so many men do not know how common it is or know where to go for help. Unlike an enlarged prostate, which occurs in older men, prostatitis is more common in younger and middle-aged men.
Even if you do not currently have prostatitis, you could have it in the future because prostatitis might be the most common prostate-related disease. That is why it is important to learn as much as you can about male health, the prostate gland itself, and understanding prostatitis so you can help prevent it and learn the best ways to manage and treat the condition. The more you understand it, the better your chance of preventing it or keeping it from coming back.
Even though it can be confusing and difficult to treat, learning about its prevention, symptoms, causes, and many treatments can assist you in seeking help. The more you know, the better you can prepare for managing symptoms and living with it. Prostatitis does not have to confusing or debilitating. Knowing how to fight it can help you take control of your pelvic health long-term.
The Prostate 101
The prostate gland is a walnut-sized structure that sits beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. This part of the male reproductive system wraps around the urethra, kind of like a tight donut, with the urethra going through it. The urethra is the tube that transports fluids such as urine and semen out of the body through the end of the penis. That is why an inflamed prostate can squeeze the urethra, restricting urine flow and causing urinary symptoms. Men with prostatitis often experience urinary symptoms as well as pelvic pain and sexual discomfort.
All boys are born with a prostate gland, but this reproductive gland does not become active until they reach puberty. At puberty, the gland grows to its normal and healthy size, weighing one ounce and reaching the size of a walnut shell.
The prostate begins to function in puberty. What does the prostate do? Its main function is to secrete a fluid that becomes part of the seminal fluid, which carries sperm. When a man has an orgasm, the muscles in the prostate contract which moves the prostate fluid and sperm into the urethra. The semen moves through the urethra and out of the body through the head of the penis during ejaculation.
Now you know what it the prostate does, but what do you do if you have a problem? You need to see a urologist or specialist if you are suffering from urinary problems or other pelvic and sexual pain. The doctor may diagnose you with some form of prostatitis, but you could have other reasons for the inflammation and urinary symptoms such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The will perform various tests for prostatitis and test for the presence of bacteria.
If you have prostatitis, know that it could be one of four types of prostatitis. Three types of prostatitis present with similar symptoms that have some slight differences from each other. One type of prostatitis—asymptomatic prostatitis—does not have any symptoms. Your lifestyle can be responsible for causing symptoms or many of the factors that can inflame your prostate. That is why you need to take steps in your life to help prevent this from happening and prevent prostatitis.
Last of all, even though the tiny prostate gland takes the heat for common male urinary and pelvic health symptoms, medical doctors and naturopaths are now recognizing that lifestyle plays a large role in these problems the focus is shifting to look at neuromuscular tension-related causes of prostatitis, especially in cases of long-term chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS).
When doctors and patients recognize that other factors like stress, anxiety, foods, and lifestyle lead to pain and discomfort, it can lead to successful management of the disorder, providing relief from the pain and symptoms. Applying a multimodal therapy when dealing with CPPS—including medications, changes in lifestyle, and other natural and alternative treatments (such as acupuncture, phytotherapy, supplements, psychological treatments, and pelvic trigger point therapy)—can provide a complete overall approach to treatment. It is more successful than simply prescribing ineffective antibiotics over and over.