8 Risk Factors That Can Lead to Prostatitis
There are certain things you don't think about until you really, really need them. Examples might include a car jack, clean underwear and your blood type.
And then there's the prostate gland.
This unassuming walnut-sized gland is an integral part of male sexual function, but it goes unnoticed by the majority of men until the moment it decides to stop working correctly. Without a functioning prostate gland, many aspects of a man's life can go south really quickly—probably his sex life first.
While prostate cancer is, of course, the biggest fear when it comes to the prostate, prostatitis is a much more common condition. While about 250,000 new cases of prostate cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2021, according to the American Cancer Society, that number pales in comparison with the figure for prostatitis cases. Some 2 million doctor visits a year result in a diagnosis of prostatitis.
Here are a few facts about prostatitis and the risk factors for developing it.
What is prostatitis?
The prostate gland sits below the bladder and is instrumental in making the portion of a man's ejaculate called seminal fluid. When a man ejaculates, the prostate contracts and ejects the fluid, which is then mixed with sperm and discharged from the penis.
Prostatitis occurs when the prostate gland is swollen or inflamed. Symptoms include painful or burning urination, difficulty urinating, frequent trips to the bathroom at night, cloudy or bloody urine, painful ejaculation, erectile dysfunction (ED) and pain in the perineum and lower abdomen.
While prostatitis is not considered linked to prostate cancer, it is nonetheless serious all on its own. Men can experience a considerable amount of pain, and when prostatitis is left untreated, it can lead to bacterial blood infections, epididymitis, sepsis, a prostatic abscess or semen abnormalities and fertility issues.
Risk factors for prostatitis
The list of factors that can contribute to or cause a case of prostatitis is varied and extensive, ranging from injury to age to infections to medical procedures. Eight of the most common are:
- Bladder infection. The prostate surrounds the urethra, sitting at the neck of the bladder, so if you get a urinary tract infection (UTI), it can easily spread to the prostate. One great way to stave off prostatitis is to quickly treat a UTI, including completing the full course of antibiotics.
- Being young or middle-aged. Half of all men will have symptoms of prostatitis at some point in their lives, and it is the most common urinary tract issue in men younger than 50, the Cleveland Clinic reports.
- Having an STI. If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can spread to the prostate and cause prostatitis. Seeing a doctor and taking the entire course of antibiotics is the key to preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from spreading to the prostate and causing prostatitis.
- Pelvic trauma. A bicycle injury or frequently riding on an unpadded seat can irritate the prostate, potentially resulting in prostatitis. Certain types of jobs that put chronic pressure on the prostate area may also contribute to prostatitis. These include those involving a lot of heavy lifting or long hours of sitting, such as driving a truck.
- Recent use of a urinary catheter. The insertion of a tube through the urethra and into the bladder can sometimes cause an infection resulting in prostatitis.
- Urinary retention. Being unable to empty the bladder when urinating may contribute to prostatitis, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
- Prior diagnosis. Men who have had a previous diagnosis of prostatitis are at a higher risk of developing it again.
- Surgery or a prostate biopsy. Probing the prostate via surgery or biopsy is a frequent cause of prostatitis.
While prostatitis is a widespread condition that many men experience and contracting it is largely out of their control, there are clear risk factors that make it more or less likely.
Consult your physician at the earliest sign that something is wrong, especially if you've had an STI or a UTI, and you can go a long way toward preventing a lengthy and potentially complicated bout of prostatitis.