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Causes and Treatment of Prostate Problems

If medication doesn't work, surgery may be needed

By National Institutes of Health

A man's frequent need to urinate or painful urination could be caused by a prostate problem.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is part of a man's sex organs. It is a gland about the size of a walnut that surrounds the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body. The prostate adds fluid to the semen when you ejaculate.

What are prostate problems?

For men under age 50, the most common prostate problem is prostatitis, meaning the prostate is inflamed. For men over age 50, the most common prostate problem is prostate enlargement. This condition is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.

What are the symptoms of prostatitis?

Prostatitis can cause painful, burning, or frequent urination. You may have a fever or pain in your lower back or genital area.

What causes prostatitis?

Prostatitis is sometimes caused by bacteria. But usually no bacteria are present and doctors will look for other possible causes of urinary symptoms, such as a kidney stone or cancer. If no other causes are found, your doctor may decide you have nonbacterial prostatitis.

How is prostatitis treated?

If you have bacterial prostatitis, your doctor can give you an antibiotic to fight the infection. If you keep getting infections, you may have a defect in your prostate that allows bacteria to grow. This defect can usually be corrected with surgery.

Antibiotics will not help nonbacterial prostatitis. Instead, your doctor may give you a medicine to relax the muscle tissue in the prostate. Changing your diet or taking warm baths may help too.

What are the symptoms of BPH?

Some symptoms of BPH include

  •     a frequent and urgent need to urinate
  •     trouble starting a urine stream
  •     a weak stream of urine
  •     the feeling you still have to urinate, even when you have just finished
  •     small amounts of blood in your urine

What causes BPH?


As men get older, their prostate keeps growing. As it grows it squeezes the urethra. Since urine travels from the bladder through the urethra, the pressure from the enlarged prostate may affect bladder control.

How is BPH treated?

You'll have to work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you. Some options are

  •     living with your symptoms, if they don't bother you too much, and regular checkups to make sure your condition isn't getting worse
  •     medicines to shrink or relax the prostate
  •     a nonsurgical procedure to remove parts of the prostate
  •     surgery to remove part of the prostate

What else could cause the same symptoms?

Frequent or painful urination, especially with blood in the urine, could be signs of bladder cancer. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor right away.

Where can I get more information about prostate problems?

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases
Information Clearinghouse
3 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3580

Phone: 1–800–891–5390
TTY: 1–866–569–1162
Fax: 703–738–4929
Email: [email protected]

Adapted from "Prostate Problems: What Men Need to Know," a publication of the The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

National Institutes of Health
By National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation's medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIH is the largest single source of financing for medical research in the world, seeking new ways to cure disease, alleviate suffering and prevent illness. By providing the evidence base for health decisions by individuals and their clinicians, NIH is empowering Americans to embrace healthy living through informed decision-making. NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers, each with a specific research agenda, focusing on stages of life, like aging or child health, or particular diseases or body systems.

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