What Is Prostatitis?

Prostatitis is a common condition in which the prostate becomes infected or inflamed. The disorder may cause severe pain in the perineum—the area between the rectum and scrotum. Men may also feel pain in their groin, genitals, and lower back. Another possible symptom is an urgent or frequent need to urinate, which is sometimes mistakenly attributed to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Some men complain of painful ejaculation, but others report that ejaculation relieves pain. According to one study, men with prostatitis have a quality of life so diminished that it is comparable to that of men who have recently suffered a heart attack.

Prostatitis is often difficult to treat, in part because several forms of the disease exist and the cause of the most common form is unknown.

Some men experience acute flare-ups caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate. This acute bacterial prostatitis is associated with a sudden and continuous pain that lasts for several days. Some men have signs of inflammation, such as white blood cells in their semen, but not the painful symptoms of prostatitis.

More common, however, is chronic prostatitis, which can arise from a bacterial infection or an unidentified nonbacterial source. Nearly 95 percent of men with prostatitis are believed to have the chronic nonbacterial form (also known as chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome, or CP/CPPS). Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis may last for several weeks or longer, only to disappear and then flare up again.

Publication Review By: H. Ballentine Carter, M.D.

Published: 14 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 19 Feb 2015