How dangerous is pro­stati­tis?

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Prostatitis is a common condition. It's estimated that one in six men will be affected by it at some point in their lives. Most will suffer from the chronic form of prostatitis, whose causes aren't yet entirely clear.

Prostatitis: bacteria are rarely responsible

Most men first experience prostatitis, which means inflammation of the prostate gland, between the age of 40 and 50. Unlike other types of inflammation, bacteria are only seldom to blame. «Only 1 in 10 cases of prostatitis are due to bacterial infection,» says Prof. Daniel Eberli, Director of the Department of Urology at University Hospital Zurich. «Most patients will be diagnosed with the chronic form of the condition.» Acute prostatitis is much less common. But what are the differences between bacterial and chronic (non-bacterial) prostatitis?

Bacterial prostatitis

Intestinal bacteria are the most common cause of acute inflammation of the prostate. Pathogens of sexually transmitted diseases (tripper, gonorrhoea) sometimes also play a role. «The bacteria enter the prostate from the outside via the urinary tract. They usually infect the bladder first and then work their way up to the prostate in the course of this urinary tract infection,» Daniel Eberli explains. Risk factors include frequent urinary tract infections and unprotected anal sex. But urinary catheters, diabetes and immunodeficiency can also lead to bacterial prostatitis. The symptoms of this bacterial inflammation are similar to those of a bladder infection.

Symptoms of prostatitis

  • Burning pain when urinating
  • Needing to pee frequently
  • Weak urine stream
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Treating bacterial prostatitis

Bacterial prostatitis is treated with antibiotics. In most cases, the chances of recovery are very high. «With the right medication, acute prostatitis usually starts to clear up after two days,» says Daniel Eberli. However, he stresses that the symptoms should be investigated thoroughly by a specialist in order to avoid further complications – such as the infection spreading to the bladder or even the kidneys.

With the right medication, acute prostatitis usually starts to clear up after two days.
Prof. Daniel Eberli, Director of the Urology Department
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Chronic (non-bacterial) prostatitis

In contrast to the bacterial form, the causes of chronic or non-bacterial prostatitis are still not entirely clear. Symptoms are partly similar to those of the acute form, but milder. In addition, pain can be experienced when ejaculating or after sex. Chronic prostatitis isn't usually accompanied by either fever or chills. Pelvic pain is often experienced for months at a time or can even come and go for more than a year.

Treating chronic prostatitis

All of this means that chronic prostatitis also takes longer to treat. A combination of anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers is normally used. «One of the aims is to put a stop to the recurring breakthrough pain,» says Daniel Eberle, explaining that it's necessary to prevent a vicious cycle of pain and psychological problems that build on and reinforce one another. «As well as taking their medication, we recommend that patients wear warm clothing and take warm baths.»

However, it's important to take each case of prostatitis seriously and seek medical advice – because an inflamed prostate is a condition that should never be brushed aside.
Prof. Daniel Eberli.

Home remedies can help

In addition to these two most natural home remedies, pumpkin seeds and teas made from nettle, willow herb or liquorice root are often used to relieve the symptoms. «Even though the effectiveness of most herbal home remedies isn't scientifically proven, they can help alleviate the pain if used alongside medical treatment,» says Daniel Eberli. «People with prostatitis should also follow a healthy diet with lots of fruit and veg, legumes, plenty of liquids (water or tea) and only small amounts of alcohol. However, it's important to take each case of prostatitis seriously and seek medical advice – because an inflamed prostate is a condition that should never be brushed aside,» stresses Daniel Eberli.

Is prostatitis a risk factor for prostate cancer?

There's no doubt that prostatitis – especially in its chronic form – can have a significant impact on the sufferer's quality of life. «In almost every case, however, the symptoms will gradually improve on their own over time. As far as we're aware today, there's no medical evidence that prostatitis can ultimately lead to prostate cancer,» points out Daniel Eberli. Having your PSA levels tested regularly by your doctor can help detect prostate conditions. Raised levels may be a sign of prostate cancer, benign prostate enlargement or an infection.

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