It is an excruciating, little-known affliction that scares thousands of men from leaving their homes and, in very serious cases, even drives them to commit suicide.
Prostatitis can cause extreme, burning pelvic pain and trigger the urge to go to the toilet — sometimes several times an hour.
While the spectrum of severity is broad, up to one in six men will be affected to some degree at some point in their lives.
Still, experts say only a fraction of those who suffer seek help for their problem — and those who do are often disappointed by ineffective treatments.
Now some UK experts are calling for greater awareness and vital research into what they call ‘the Cinderella syndrome’ of men’s health.
Prostatitis can cause extreme, burning pelvic pain and trigger the urge to go to the toilet — sometimes several times an hour. One patient who was remarkably unafraid to speak up is 33-year-old journalist Simon Smith (pictured with a friend), who says he feels the urge to urinate every ten minutes.
Richard Hindley, urologist consultant at The Prostate Centre, says: ‘There’s too little focus on it – finding out what’s causing it or how to treat it. Yet it has a major impact on men. I know a patient who committed suicide.’
As a result, men, often in the prime of their lives, suffer in silence.
One patient who was remarkably unafraid to speak up is 33-year-old journalist Simon Smith, who says he feels the urge to urinate every ten minutes.
Simon, who lives in Glasgow and has suffered from the condition for ten years, describes his pain bluntly: ‘It’s like having a thick nail hammered into my penis.’
Sex can lead to extreme pain, often lasting for hours.
Many men with the condition find that their relationships suffer because it can cause erectile dysfunction.
Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatories, antibiotics to treat urinary infections, or perform tests for sexually transmitted diseases to rule out other problems before referring to a urologist.
Medicines to stimulate blood flow in the penis can be given, as well as medicines designed to improve urine flow, but they don’t always work.
Simon, who lives in Glasgow and has suffered from the condition for ten years, describes his pain bluntly: ‘It’s like having a big nail driven into my penis’
“The medication made no difference,” says Simon. “I stopped because it’s no use.”
Today Simon has learned to deal with his symptoms.
He organizes his daily life around the urges and uses meditation to manage stress.
“At a recent wedding, where I witnessed, I had to carefully plan when I went to the bathroom,” he says.
“I hung out outside the church until seconds before the bride arrived, so I didn’t have to run back down the aisle. This is how I should plan my life, and it can affect every part of it.
“I used to worry about a future of painful long-haul flights, stop-start sex and constantly interrupted road trips. Now my coping strategy is simple: I’m open and honest when there’s a potential problem, and I’m just used to it.”
Prostatitis, which makes up a quarter of all urologic appointments, is essentially inflammation and swelling in the prostate — the small, fluid-producing gland behind the bladder — or the nerves and muscles of the pelvis itself.
It is now often referred to as chronic pelvic pain syndrome because the prostate may appear normal on examinations.
Most men are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can affect men as young as 18.
The cause remains unknown, although likely triggers are stress, muscle tension and — in ten percent of cases — bacterial infection, which antibiotics can clear up. But for the other 90 percent, the problem can become chronic.
Prostatitis, which makes up a quarter of all urologic appointments, is essentially inflammation and swelling in the prostate — the small, fluid-producing gland behind the bladder — or the nerves and muscles of the pelvis itself. (Given by models)
Some scientists have suggested it could be caused by ongoing damage from previous sexually transmitted diseases, or by micro-tears in muscles from exercise — squats in particular — that cause spasms.
Urologist Kasra Saeb-Parsy, of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, said patients were difficult to treat, especially in short ten-minute consultations because the problem was so complex and poorly understood.
He added: ‘We think that nerves in the perineum, the pelvic area that supports the bladder and bowel, become hypersensitive from trauma and send pain signals to the brain unnecessarily.
“Often you can’t find a trigger, because the causal event happened many years before.”
While medication isn’t always effective, there are other helpful remedies that can treat underlying stress.
Sophie Smith, clinical nurse specialist at Prostate Cancer UK, who has developed a guideline for GPs on how to manage prostatitis, says: ‘We know CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy], relaxation and mindfulness can help with that.’
She added that pelvic floor exercises help relax muscles in the groin, which can be tense and tight. This can relieve pain and improve bladder control.
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Smith, along with other experts, has argued for a more “joint approach” to treatment, involving the input of a physical therapist and a psychologist, rather than simply referring men to a urologist.
She says there should be more pelvic pain clinics available for men — where all these professionals are under one roof.
In June, NHS England announced the launch of specialist pelvic health clinics for women in 14 areas of England, helping 175,000 people with incontinence problems and pelvic pain.
But for men, there are only a handful of such clinics, run by the few clinicians with a special interest in the area.
“We’ve made great advances for women, but we’re going backwards with men,” says Mr. Saeb-Parsy.
“We used to have a pelvic pain clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but it was just too expensive, so we had to close. It was a shame because it made such a difference to so many men.’
According to Simon, all too often men are reluctant to talk about the subject. “This partly explains why pelvic problems in men don’t attract the same attention as those in women,” he says.
He took steps to change this by setting up his own YouTube channel where he talks about his condition. He says: ‘Many men are too embarrassed to talk about it – and that has to change.
‘So many contact me anonymously. But if we want things to change, talking about it will help – and it can also alleviate the unconscious anxiety associated with this condition.”
Health Hacks: Drinking Coffee Supports Liver Health
People who drink coffee regularly may have a reduced risk of liver disease.
The same effect is seen in those who drink regular and decaffeinated coffee, ground or instant, a study from the University of Southampton suggests.
Researchers analyzed UK Biobank data from 384,818 coffee drinkers and 109,767 people who did not drink it.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers were 21 percent less likely to develop chronic liver disease, 20 percent less likely to develop chronic or fatty liver disease, and 49 percent less likely to die from chronic liver disease.
People who drink coffee regularly may have a reduced risk of liver disease. The same effect is seen in people who drink regular and decaffeinated coffee, ground or instant, a study from the University of Southampton suggests.