Prostate infections occur when a pathogenic microorganism manages to penetrate the outer casing of the gland. The prostate’s physical structure and its lack of an adequate drainage system makes it vulnerable to attack. Once invaders are inside, they usually multiply rapidly in the prostate’s hospitable environment and make a man’s life miserable. These infections can be quite acute, accompanied by fever; chills, penile discharges, and severe pain. Some prostate infections can become chronic, causing borderline feelings of misery and general malaise, similar to a persistent post-nasal drip or sinus infection.
A prostate attack can be dramatic and appear to be far more serious than it actually is. Larry and Ann, recently married graduate students, made love almost every day. One evening to their horror, they noticed that some of Larry’s semen had dripped on the white bedsheet and was bright, blood red. Early the next morning, the panicked couple appeared unannounced at my office. In one of my happier moments in medicine, I was able to tell them Larry’s condition was an easily treated prostate infection.
Most prostate infections are caused by common bacteria, especially those inhabiting the colon and other portions of the intestinal tract. Prostate infections usually respond well to antibacterial agents. But it is vital to cure completely all prostate infections, not only to protect the health of the man who harbors the illness, but because some infections can be passed to a female partner. Untreated and uncured prostate infections can also affect male infertility.
No hard statistics are available on prostate infections, but they are common and constitute a significant portion of a urologist’s practice. They can occur at any age, even in teenagers or younger boys. In my practice, I have generally encountered these infections among men in their twenties. The numbers increase significantly with patients in their mid-thirties. There is some evidence that men who are sexually active with multiple partners contract prostate infections earlier and more often.
Conditions that Mimic Prostate Infections
Sometimes men complain of stinging or burning urination and lower back pain, symptoms that mimic prostate infections. However; laboratory tests of prostate fluid taken from such patients reveal no evidence of infectious microorganisms. Medically, these effects are known as “prostatosis” and “prostatodynia,” depending on the nature of the symptoms. Men suffering from these conditions have told me they’ve been dismissed as hopeless hypochondriacs by some physicians. Unfortunately, their problems are real and with a little effort effective treatment programs can be started.
Prostate congestion occurs when excess prostate fluid builds up within the gland. One job of the prostate is to constantly produce prostate fluid. Unless its buildup is relieved by sexual intercourse, nocturnal emission, or masturbation, pressure continues to increase within the gland. Prostate irritation, a logical consequence, can be quite painful.
Prostate congestion can occur anytime after puberty and is related to your pattern of sexual activity. Men who experience long periods of sexual abstinence or who indulge in prolonged sexual foreplay without consummation are most likely to have this problem. Paradoxically, occasional bouts of intense sex with repeated ejaculations can also trigger painful prostate irritation.
Prostate congestion can be relieved by appropriate life-style changes. Prostate massage by a urologist can also help relieve the condition.
Benign Prostate Enlargement – Not Cancerous
Benign prostate enlargement is referred to as “BPH” – benign prostate hypertrophy or benign prostatic hyperplasia, another medical name for it. BPH is not cancerous because the tumor that develops within the prostate will not spread to other parts of the body. BPH, is however, an unpleasant condition. At its worst, it can be life threatening. Fortunately, there are effective treatments with limited or manageable side effects.
Typically, men with BPH experience problems voiding urine, because of the pressure the enlarged gland places on the urethra and the neck of the bladder. Men with BPH also feel a frequent need to urinate and the act can be painful and frustratingly incomplete. At night, the need to urinate frequently is very common to BPH patients.
BPH can cause death, although that is inexcusable considering the diagnostic and treatment techniques available today. One case where proper medical treatment could have made all the difference was the death of multimillionaire tycoon Howard Hughes. His extraordinary life earned him major celebrity status, but he became increasingly eccentric and reclusive in his later years. Holed up in a hotel room surrounded by a cadre of bodyguards, he refused all medical attention, despite increasingly agonizing pain from an enlarged prostate. His death was caused when the swelling continued until it created a fatal urinary-tract blockage.
Significant prostate enlargement can occur even in young adults. Men in their late thirties with BPH symptoms are beginning to show up in my office in increasing numbers. By age 60, about half my patients have significant enlargement, along with associated voiding difficulties. In very elderly patients, it is most unusual not to find significant enlargement.
Not all men diagnosed with BPH need immediate, aggressive medical treatment. However; all men with the condition should be examined periodically by a urologist.
The term “urinary-genital system” implies a body mechanism that serves a dual purpose: urination as well as the male contribution to human reproduction. All the internal plumbing carrying urine from the kidney and semen and sperm from the testicles comes together in the immediate vicinity of the prostate. Provided the prostate is healthy, it manufactures its portion of semen, assists ejaculation, and possibly manufactures some yet-to-be-proved vital chemicals. Therefore, because of these interconnections, when prostate disorders do occur; they may affect both urination and sexuality.