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Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland and can result in various clinical syndromes. Causes can be
broadly divided into non-bacterial or bacterial, with the former being more common. However, the majority of
acutely presenting cases are usually bacterial in nature.
Prostatitis is common with a prevalence of 2.2-9.7%. [1] Approximately 2-10% of adult men suffer from
symptoms compatible with chronic prostatitis at any time and 15% of men suffer from symptoms of
prostatitis at some point in their lives. [2] In addition ~6% of autopsies on men reveal histological
Chronic prostatitis is much more common than acute prostatitis.
Bacterial prostatitis is the most common form in those under 35 years old.
Younger patients may also have HIV infection. This predisposes to infection with atypical organisms
and they may be predisposed to carcinoma of prostate. [3]
There are also suggestions that chronic prostatitis may be associated with benign prostatic
hyperplasia and carcinoma of prostate. [4]
Usually Gram-negative organisms, especially Escherichia coli, Enterobacter, Serratia, Pseudomonas,
and Proteus species.
Sexually transmitted infections may also be a cause, e.g Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia
Rarer causes include Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Elevated prostatic pressures.
Pelvic floor myalgia.
Emotional disorders.
Risk factors
Sexually transmitted infections.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Indwelling catheters.
Acute bacterial prostatitis can occur after sclerotherapy for rectal prolapse.
Following manipulation of the gland, eg post-biopsy.
Increases with increasing age. [1]
[1] [5] A classification system has been proposed and it divides the various syndromes into four broad categories:
Acute bacterial prostatitis.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis.
Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS) - further subdivided into a and b according to
presence or absence of inflammation.
Asymptomatic inflammation.
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Common complaints include:
Fever, malaise, arthralgia and myalgia.
Urinary frequency, urgency, dysuria, nocturia, hesitancy, and incomplete voiding.
Low back pain, low abdominal pain, perineal pain and pain in the urethra. In chronic prostatitis the
most consistent finding is that of chronic pelvic pain.
Pain on ejaculation is commonly reported, especially in CPPS, but it has been very poorly
investigated. [6]
Urethral discharge.
There may be fever.
In acute bacterial prostatitis findings include:
The gland may feel nodular, boggy or possibly normal.
The gland may be tender on palpation and feel hot to touch.
Inguinal lymphadenopathy and urethral discharge.
There may also be features of UTI and systemic infection, eg tachycardia, dehydration.
In chronic bacterial and non-bacterial prostatitis:
The gland feels normal or may be hard from calcification.
Differential diagnosis [7]
Benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Urinary tract stones.
Foreign body in the urinary tract.
Bladder neoplasia.
Prostatic abscess.
Enterovesical fistula.
If the patient is toxic and septicaemia is possible then FBC, U&E and creatinine are required along with
blood cultures.
In acute bacterial prostatitis, diagnosis is made on urine culture. There is also microscopy for white
blood cell count and bacterial count along with presence of oval fat bodies and lipid-laden
Do not use prostatic massage in acute prostatitis, as it is painful and may spread infection. For this
reason the '2-glass' test where by urine sample is examined for sediment before and after prostatic
massage, has fallen out of favour.
If there is suspicion of carcinoma of prostate check the PSA, but remember it can be elevated in any
form of prostatitis. [8]
Chronic non-bacterial prostatitis
Chronic non-bacterial prostatitis or CPPS impairs quality of life and a diagnostic index is required to aid diagnosis
and research into outcome. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Chronic Prostatitis Collaborative
Research Network (CPCRN) has developed a psychometrically valid index of symptoms and quality-of-life
impact in men with chronic prostatitis. [9] It contains 13 items that are scored in three discrete domains:
Urinary symptoms.
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Quality-of-life impact.
The NIH Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index (NIH-CPSI) has now been validated in several languages and it
shows that chronic non-bacterial prostatitis is a significant problem across the world. Hopefully, this will help
improve the quality of research to obtain guidelines for management.
Diagnostic criteria for this condition include:
Symptoms suggestive of prostatitis (eg pelvic discomfort or pain) lasting for more than three months.
Negative cultures of urine and prostatic fluid.
In the inflammatory type, leukocytes are present in prostatic fluid.
In the non-inflammatory type, no leukocytes are present in prostatic fluid.
The cause is unknown, but theories include:
Infection with an organism that has not yet been identified.
An immune reaction to a persistent antigen from an organism or from a urinary constituent.
Pelvic sympathetic nervous system dysfunction.
Interstitial cystitis.
Prostatic cysts and calculi.
Mechanical problems causing retention of prostatic fluid.
Acute prostatitis [10]
A patient with acute prostatitis may be acutely ill and require admission to hospital.
They may also be in septic shock and require resuscitation.
Adequate analgesia may also be required.
If there is retention of urine, a suprapubic catheter may be required.
Avoid repeated rectal examination for fear of seeding infection and give parenteral antibiotic to cover
Gram-negative organisms.
If the disease is sexually transmitted, a GUM clinic may be valuable, both in terms of accurate
diagnosis and of contact tracing.
Flouroquinolones are first-line, eg ciprofloxacin or ofloxacin, and should be prescribed for four weeks.
Severely ill patients may require parenteral aminoglycosides in addition to flouroquinolones.
Second-line agents include trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and macrolides.
Referral may be required for several reasons:
The patient may be toxic, severely ill, unable to tolerate oral antibiotics or deteriorating on oral
antibiotics. Admission is required for intravenous antibiotics.
An inadequate response to antibiotics may require investigation by transrectal ultrasound examination
or CT scan of the prostate to seek a prostatic abscess which would need surgical drainage.
Pre-existing urological conditions (eg obstruction, indwelling catheter).
Immunocompromised people require specialist urological management. They may require more
intensive treatment. Aspergillus spp. and Cryptococcus spp. may require aggressive antifungal
Acute urinary retention requires suprapubic catheterisation, as insertion of a urethral catheter may
damage the prostate.
Following recovery, all men require referral for investigation of their urinary tract, to exclude structural
Chronic infective prostatitis [11]
Referral should be made if the patient has chronic prostatitis but, whilst he is waiting to be seen, it is
worth trying to treat the infection and the pain.
Antibiotics should be prescribed along the same lines as for acute prostatitis. This usually requires a
quinolone for 4-6 weeks and repeat courses may be necessary.
Analgesia and stool softeners may be necessary.
In chronic prostatitis, where calculi serve as a nidus for infection, transurethral resection of the
prostate (TURP) or total prostatectomy may be required.
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Chronic abacterial prostatitis
There is very poor evidence for how to treat the condition. A systematic review of diagnosis and treatment of
chronic abacterial prostatitis concluded that there is no gold standard test. There are a few trials of weak
methodology and small numbers. [12]
Either paracetamol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) would be a reasonable choice
for analgesia.
Antibiotics may possibly help occult infection but this is unsupported by evidence.
Prazosin or another alpha-blocker may be of value but the evidence is inconclusive. If they do work,
they should be given for 3-6 months and the less highly selective blockers are preferable. [12]
A recent analysis suggests that, of all the therapies, the alpha-blockers, antibiotics or a combination of
these provide the best outcomes. [13]
Stress management has been suggested for individuals who are suspected to have a strong
psychological component to their symptoms, although there are no trial data on the effectiveness of
psychological interventions.
Physiotherapy and relaxation techniques: new research in this area suggests that muscle tension may
be the cause of pain in the pelvic floor. Observational data suggest that physiotherapy (applying
pressure to trigger points in the pelvic floor), in conjunction with relaxation techniques, may be of
benefit. The authors were unable to find any randomised controlled trials on this, and treatment may
be difficult to access in both primary and secondary care. [14]
Other treatments that have been investigated include thermotherapy (transurethral microwave
hyperthermia or transurethral microwave thermotherapy), bioflavonoids (quercetin), allopurinol,
finasteride, and anti-inflammatory preparations. Newer approaches include trials of finasteride and
quercetin. A recent systematic review demonstrated that none of the current diagnostic and treatment
methods for CPPS is supported by a robust evidence base.
Pain on sexual activity may contribute to erectile dysfunction. [15]
In acute bacterial prostatitis the prognosis is good if treatment is swift and adequate.
In chronic disease with exacerbations it is important to identify and treat underlying conditions. The help of a
urologist is required, as relapses are common.
Further reading & references
Guidelines on Chronic Pelvic Pain, European Association of Urology (2012)
1. Schiller DS, Parikh A; Identification, pharmacologic considerations, and management of prostatitis. Am J Geriatr
Pharmacother. 2011 Feb;9(1):37-48.
2. Krieger JN; Classification, epidemiology and implications of chronic prostatitis in North America, Europe and Asia. Minerva
Urol Nefrol. 2004 Jun;56(2):99-107.
3. Crum NF, Spencer CR, Amling CL; Prostate carcinoma among men with human immunodeficiency virus infection. Cancer.
2004 Jul 15;101(2):294-9.
4. Roberts RO, Bergstralh EJ, Bass SE, et al; Prostatitis as a risk factor for prostate cancer. Epidemiology. 2004 Jan;15(1):939.
5. Krieger JN, Nyberg L Jr, Nickel JC; NIH consensus definition and classification of prostatitis. JAMA. 1999 Jul
6. Luzzi GA, Law LA; The male sexual pain syndromes. Int J STD AIDS. 2006 Nov;17(11):720-6; quiz 726.
7. Sharp VJ, Takacs EB, Powell CR; Prostatitis: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Aug 15;82(4):397-406.
8. Schaeffer AJ, Wu SC, Tennenberg AM, et al ; Treatment of chronic bacterial prostatitis with levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin
lowers serum prostate specific antigen. J Urol. 2005 Jul;174(1):161-4.
9. Litwin MS; Areview of the development and validation of the National Institutes of Health Chronic Prostatitis Symptom
Index. Urology. 2002 Dec;60(6 Suppl):14-8; discussion 18-9.
10. Prostatitis - acute; NICE CKS, February 2009
11. Prostatitis - chronic; NICE CKS, February 2009
12. Lee SW, Liong ML, Yuen KH, et al; Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: role of alpha blocker therapy. Urol Int.
13. Anothaisintawee T, Attia J, Nickel JC, et al; Management of chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a systematic
JAMA. 2011 Jan 5;305(1):78-86.
14. Anderson RU, Wise D, Sawyer T, et al; Integration of myofascial trigger point release and paradoxical relaxation training
treatment of chronic pelvic pain in men. J Urol. 2005 Jul;174(1):155-60.
15. Muller A, Mulhall JP; Sexual dysfunction in the patient with prostatitis. Curr Opin Urol. 2005 Nov;15(6):404-9.
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Original Author:
Dr Gurvinder Rull
Current Version:
Dr Gurvinder Rull
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Last Checked:
Document ID:
2674 (v29)
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