Prostatitis is the general term for inflammation of the prostate. The inflammation can be acute and is normally caused by an infection.
Symptoms of prostatitis include pelvic pain, pain when urinating and pain when ejaculating semen.
There are three main types of prostatitis; acute prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis, and chronic non-bacterial prostatitis.
This is caused by a bacterial infection which may have started in the bladder or urethra and spread to the prostate. Without prompt treatment using antibiotics, the prostate and surrounding tissues can become damaged.
Chronic (long lasting) prostatitis
This is becoming more common. Symptoms include persistent genital or pelvic pain and a heavy, aching, full feeling in the area. Pain during or after ejaculation can be very distressing and does not help sexual relationships. Often it can be tracked back to an inflammation of the prostate. It can also lead to an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Chronic non-bacterial prostatitis
This is a poorly understood condition of unknown origin. It shares many of the symptoms of chronic bacterial prostatitis, except that when it is diagnosed there is no trace of a bacterial infection (or any other type of infection).
Diagnosing the cause of prostatitis can be quite difficult and finding the most successful treatment may take time. Firstly, your doctor will need to examine your prostate. He does this by inserting a gloved fingers into the rectum and feeling the prostate through the wall of your rectum. Though this may feel uncomfortable, it can tell the doctor a lot. Either your GP or the hospital Consultant Urologist will test a specimen of urine to check for infections, and take a blood sample to check for the presence of chemical markers that can help identify the cause of the problem.
Depending on the result of these tests, you may be asked to provide a specimen of semen to see if that shows signs of infection. Producing this sample may well be the very last thing you feel like doing but it can make a big difference to your diagnosis so it is well worth persevering.
The Consultant may decide that he needs a closer look at the gland itself. This can be done by imaging technology; either ultrasound scanning, CT or MRI, depending precisely on what he suspects might be the problem.
If those studies show unusual changes then the Consultant might want to take a biopsy of the gland. This is done under local anaesthetic using a long needle and under ultrasound guidance. You will feel a little tender and maybe notice bloodstained semen for a day or two, but the test is safe and a good way of making sure that your problem is fully understood.
If you are concerned about your problem and it is starting to affect your day to day life make an appointment to see your doctor, continence nurse or specialist physiotherapist. A continence nurse and specialist physiotherapist are healthcare professionals who specialise in bladder and bowel problems.