When is prostatitis an emergency?

Written by: Mr Andrew Ballaro
Published: | Updated: 28/03/2019
Edited by: Emily Lawrenson

Common knowledge and awareness of the prostate and what it does is relatively low in the UK. In a recent survey, Prostate Cancer UK revealed that of the 2000 men they surveyed, only 50% knew where the prostate was in their bodies. Considering 10-15% of men are estimated to develop symptoms of prostatitis at some point in their lives, it is important to know what you should be looking for, and make sure you act to receive the appropriate treatment. Mr Andrew Ballaro, expert urologist specialised in the treatment of prostatitis, explains symptoms to watch for, and when prostatitis should be considered an emergency.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is actually a gland which is an important part of the male reproductive system. It is roughly the size of a walnut. The prostate is found between the penis and bladder, and it produces prostate fluid, one of the main components of semen. It also affects urinary flow and ejaculation.  

What is prostatitis?

Simply put, prostatitis refers to swelling, or inflammation of the prostate. Many problems with the prostate affect older men, such as prostate enlargement, but prostatitis can occur at any age, most commonly affecting men between the ages of 30 and 50. Sometimes prostatitis is caused by bacterial infection, but sometimes there is no clear cause.

Prostatitis is usually divided into two main types as follows:

  • Chronic prostatitis: this is the most common type of prostatitis. This type can last for months, and can come back (is recurring). Symptoms can come and go, and they vary in severity. This type is not usually caused by infection, but the cause isn’t often clear.
  • Acute prostatitis: this form of prostatitis is much less common, affecting very few men in comparison to chronic prostatitis. In acute prostatitis, symptoms are severe and appear quickly, developing rapidly. Acute prostatitis is caused by bacterial infection, and is considered to be a medical emergency.

What are the symptoms?

Prostatitis symptoms vary from man to man, and they also vary depending on the cause of the condition. Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the abdomen, lower back, or groin
  • Pain in the testicles or in the penis
  • Pain while urinating
  • Pain while ejaculating
  • Blood in semen
  • Cloudy urine, or blood in the urine
  • A need to pee more frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty when starting to urinate, or dribbles/affected stream while urinating
  • Chills and possible fever

In acute prostatitis, these symptoms will be sudden, and painful. Acute prostatitis most commonly presents with sudden symptoms of chills, a fever, a severe burning sensation while peeing, or difficulty draining the bladder. In this case, you should seek medical help right away, as acute prostatitis is considered a medical emergency.

If it is left untreated, complications can develop, varying from man to man. These can include the inability to pass urine, and an abscess on the prostate. So it is imperative that men seek medical help if confronted with sudden prostatitis symptoms.

What is the treatment for prostatitis?

In the case of acute prostatitis, as it is caused by bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics is usually prescribed. It is important to finish the course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms go away. After the course is finished you will be tested to see if any trace of bacteria remains in or near the prostate.

Sometimes the cause of chronic prostatitis is not clear, so treatment is advised on a case by case basis. Your healthcare provider will perform tests to try and determine the type of prostatitis, and the cause of symptoms. If the chronic prostatitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed.

A type of medication called alpha-blockers may also be prescribed, which help to relax the muscles in the prostate and at the base of the bladder, helping with problems and pain felt while urinating.

To help with pain, over-the-counter painkillers can be taken, and you can try some remedies to ease symptoms, such as taking a hot bath, or using a hot water bottle. Sometimes relaxation and breathing exercises can help. Sometimes we advise the patient to make some changes to their diet, as some food and drink can irritate, including spicy or acidic foods, or fizzy drinks.

Am I at risk from prostatitis?

Prostatitis can occur in men across all ages, and there is not always a clear cause. It is not preventable in most cases, but practising safe sex can help reduce the risk of developing prostatitis caused by infection.

Other factors can increase the risk of developing prostatitis, including:

  • An enlarged prostate gland
  • A recent urinary tract infection
  • A prior history of prostatitis
  • Recently having had a urological procedure which used a urinary catheter
  • A urinary tract abnormality

While prostatitis is relatively common, it can be treated and managed successfully – the key to getting the right treatment (or management in the case of long-term prostatitis) is getting the right diagnosis. 


If you are worried that you are experiencing symptoms of prostatitis, make an appointment to see Mr Ballaro in London or Brentwood.

By Mr Andrew Ballaro

Mr Andrew Ballaro is a senior NHS and private consultant urologist in North London and Essex. He specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of all urological problems including blood in urine, urinary infections, prostatitis, general prostate and bladder disease, and the diagnosis of urological cancers including the investigation of raised PSA with MRI Fusion prostate biopsy.

He has specialist surgical expertise in the management of kidney stone disease and benign prostate enlargement (BPE), and consistently publishes UK leading results for complex stone operations. He also offers a choice of surgical procedures for benign prostatic enlargement tailored to the patients requirements including Holmium Laser prostatectomy (HOLEP) and minimally invasive Rezum steam treatment.

Mr Ballaro is experienced at providing second opinions and holds clinics on Wednesdays and Fridays at St John and Elizabeth Hospital in St Johns Wood and also consults in Brentwood, and is supported by a friendly professional and responsive managerial team. Mr Ballaro's extensive training began after graduating from The Royal Free Hospital Medical School in London, and undertaking his basic surgical training at Oxford. He was awarded a Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons of London and went on to complete higher urological training on the North London Training Scheme. This was followed by advanced training in complex stone surgery from national and international experts in his field.

Mr Ballaro has a strong interest in education, currently teaching trainees at the London Deanery across many levels, in addition to being awarded a Hunterian Professorship from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He holds a Masters degree in Urology and an MD in Clinical Sciences from the Institute of Urology and has published extensively on the subjects of bladder physiology and minimally invasive urological surgery. He is the co-author of the latest edition of the popular medical student textbook 'Lecture Notes in Urology'.

Mr Ballaro conducts face to face, phone and video consultations - please phone 0207 042 1790 or email for details and free post consultation advice by email if required, at: andrew.ballaro@privatepractice.healthcare

Additional patient reviews available at https://www.iwantgreatcare.org/doctors/mr-andrew-ballaro

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