Infection of the prostate can make life miserable

by Symptom Advice on September 19, 2011

Of all things that could go wrong “down there,” prostatitis is among the least serious.

But tell that to the man suffering from it.

Prostatitis is a urological condition marked by varying degrees of painful inflammation and infection of the prostate – that squishy walnut-shaped gland just below the bladder. It produces the fluid in semen and can trouble men as they age.

Experts say the disease is unrelated to prostate enlargement or prostate cancer. And while all three can coexist, one does not cause the other.

Prostatitis is usually diagnosed by a digital rectal examination, according to the American Urological Association Foundation.

The procedure not only determines whether the prostate is swollen and tender but serves as a barometer for pain and discomfort.

Other tests a doctor may consider using before making a diagnosis include a transrectal ultrasound, urine samples, prostatic fluid specimen, blood and/or semen samples.

Treating prostatitis will depend on the type of infection, from acute bacterial prostatitis – a severe urinary tract infection associated with fever, chills and lower back pain that requires a visit to the doctor or hospital — to the slow-burning symptoms of chronic prostatitis, which is more common.

We asked Dr. Inderbir S. Gill, professor and chairman of the USC School of Urology at the Keck School of Medicine, to shed light on the disease and its treatment.

Q: Is prostatitis a serious condition?

A: Well, acute prostatitis is a serious condition, yes. It can result in pretty high toxicity and fever and has to be treated urgently. Chronic prostatitis, on the other hand, is a smoldering, ongoing pain which is not that serious. Although certainly if you were to ask the patient, it makes their life miserable.

Q: does it affect fertility?

A: It certainly could. People with chronic prostatitis may have erectile dysfunction. Infection can occur in the semen as well. It does not lower sperm count per se, but if one is not in the mood, one is unlikely to make babies.

Q: how is it some men get chronic prostatitis?

A:Infection can occur anywhere in the body, right? so it can potentially occur in the prostate as well. The problem is there is a prostate/blood barrier which decreases the penetration of antibiotics into the prostate. sometimes it is hard to get appropriate antibiotic levels in the prostate and therefore, this infection, once it occurs, is not the easiest thing in the world to get rid of.

Q: can prostatitis be cured or is it just managed?

A: Managed.

Q: how?

A: Frequent ejaculations, antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, hot sitz baths, etc., etc.

Q: Is surgery ever an option?

A: no. in 20 years I’ve not had a patient do it.

Q: can someone have prostatitis and not know it?

A: It’s unlikely. This thing will get your attention and it will make your life miserable, period.

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