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Prostatitis - acute

Contents of this page:


Male reproductive anatomy
Male reproductive anatomy

Definition    Return to top

Acute prostatitis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the prostate gland that develops suddenly.

Causes    Return to top

Acute prostatitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate gland. Any bacteria that can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause acute bacterial prostatitis, including:

Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause acute prostatitis, typically in men younger than age 35. These STDs include:

Prostatitis from an STD usually comes soon after sexual contact with an infected partner.

In men older than age 35, E. coli and other common bacteria typically cause prostatitis. E. coli prostatitis may occur after:

Acute prostatitis may also develop from problems involving the urethra or prostate, such as:

Prostatitis is rare in young boys. Men ages 20 - 35 who have multiple sexual partners are at an increased risk. Also at high risk are those who engage in anal intercourse, especially without using condoms.

Men age 50 or older who have an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) are at increased risk for prostatitis due to their risk of urinary tract infection.

Symptoms    Return to top

Prostatitis may occur together with epididymitis or orchitis, especially if it was caused by an STD. In this case, there will also be symptoms of the other condition.

Symptoms of acute prostatitis include the following:

Other symptoms that may occur with this condition:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

During a physical examination, your health care provider may find the following signs:

Triple-void urine specimens may be collected for urinalysis and urine culture. Specimins will be taken:

  1. Initial stream
  2. Mid-stream
  3. After a prostate massage by the health care provider

Note: Your health care provider may choose not to perform a prostate massage if the prostate is obviously swollen and tender. Massage may spread the infection and cause bacteremia or sepsis. These are potentially life-threatening infections in which bacteria are in the bloodstream, rather than in just one part of the body.

Urinalysis and examination of discharge from the prostate may show increased white blood cells (WBCs) and bacteria.

Acute prostatitis may also affect the results of the following tests:

Treatment    Return to top

Most cases of acute prostatitis clear up completely with medication and slight changes to the diet and behavior.


Because it is common for the infection to return, some health care providers recommend even longer courses of medication -- 6 to 8 weeks -- to get rid of the infection.

Stool softeners may reduce the discomfort that occurs with bowel movements.


Surgery, urinary catheterization, or cystoscopy are not recommended for patients with acute prostatitis.




After you finish antibiotic treatment, get examined by your health care provider to make sure the infection is gone.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Most men who are accurately diagnosed with acute prostatitis become symptom-free after treatment.

Patients who have had acute prostatitis are likely to have the infection come back, and to develop chronic prostatitis.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Chronic prostatitis or prostatic abscess can develop. Urinary retention may occur as the swollen prostate tightens the urethra.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of prostatitis.

Prevention    Return to top

Not all types of prostatitis are preventable.

You can prevent infections caused by STDs by practicing safer-sex behaviors.

References    Return to top

Barry MJ, McNaughton-Collins M. Benign Prostate Disease and Prostatitis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 130.

Update Date: 9/7/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urology, Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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