Prostatitis is, quite simply, inflammation of the prostate. This inflammation may point to an infection of the prostate, but this is not always the case. The causes of prostatitis are not quite known and some of the four subtypes of prostatitis can be difficult to diagnose. Prostatitis is not prostate cancer and does not increase one’s risk of getting prostate cancer. What are the four types of prostatitis?

1. Acute Bacterial Prostatitis

While this subtype of prostatitis is not common, it is one of the easiest subtypes of prostatitis for physicians to diagnose. Acute bacterial prostatitis is caused by a bacterial infection that happens rather suddenly, and it can happen at any age. It usually includes a severe urinary tract infection accompanied by painful urination or blocked urine flow, fever, lower back or abdominal pain, and vomiting. Acute bacterial prostatitis requires speedy treatment, and may require a brief hospital stay in which you’ll receive antibiotics, fluids, and even a catheter if you have a blocked urine flow. This type of prostatitis can be fatal if left untreated.

2. Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis

With chronic bacterial prostatitis, the symptoms develop over time. In fact, this condition may exist in a man for years before any symptoms begin to emerge, although the symptoms are not as severe as those of acute bacterial prostatitis. It may be diagnosed in the form of a urinary tract infection that never seems to go completely away or keeps coming back. The urinary tract infection will have entered the prostate gland and hence now be chronic bacterial prostatitis. Some sexually transmitted infections may play a role in causing this type of prostatitis. This can happen to any age group, but is more common in young and middle-aged men. Chronic bacterial prostatitis is difficult to diagnose as it can be hard to find the bacteria that signals this type of prostatitis in the urine. Nonetheless, if you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor. Even if your symptoms are treated or go away, bacteria may still remain in the prostate and the infection can come back.

3. Chronic Prostatitis or Nonbacterial Prostatitis

This is the most common subtype of prostatitis, and again the cause is not known. Chronic prostatitis may result from a previous infection of the prostate and atypical bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant. It is suspected to arise from persistent infection, and is diagnosed if an individual is experiencing symptoms for at least three months out of a six-month period. There are usually signs of inflammation present but never any bacteria that could point to an infection. The symptoms include pain in the genital area, difficult or painful urination, and pain when ejaculating or after ejaculating. Your doctor may want to rule out any sexually transmitted infections when attempting to diagnose this prostatitis. Symptoms may go away or they may return and stay for long periods of time. It is commonly treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

4. Asymptomatic Inflammatory Prostatitis

Men with asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis usually don’t experience any symptoms despite evidence of inflammation. The prostate is inflamed in this type of prostatitis, and evidence of inflammation can be found in the urine, semen, or fluids from the prostate that your doctor will want to take tests of to diagnose you. This type of prostatitis is common in men who have benign prostatic hyperplasia, or, an enlarged prostate. Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis is usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics, although the recurrence rate is high. Some sexually transmitted infections may also play a role in asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis, therefore making it even more important to practice safe sex and use protection.

While the treatments for prostatitis are generally very successful, some men with chronic prostatitis or other recurring types of prostatitis may need long-term treatment as the prostatitis may never fully go away. Prostatitis is usually treated with antibiotics. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of prostatitis, see your doctor as soon as possible to get treated.