Estimates on the number of males in the United States who will experience prostatitis during their lifetimes range up to 50 percent. Many urologic disease experts feel that from 5 to 10 percent of males are experiencing prostatitis at a particular time, making it one of the most common urologic diseases in the U.S.

Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland that causes intense pain, urinary complications, sexual dysfunction, infertility, and a significant reduction in the quality of life Prior to the mid-1990s, very little research had occurred that could lead to improved diagnostic techniques and a cure.

Prostatitis is difficult to diagnose and treat, and has a wide range of debilitating and troublesome side affects. Unlike prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis often affects the lives of young and middle-aged men.

According to The Prostatitis Foundation, prostatitis can result in four significant symptoms: pain, urination problems, sexual dysfunction, and general health problems, such as feeling tired and depressed.

The prostate is a reproductive gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It wraps around the urethra, a tube that carries urine from the bladder. The prostate produces most of a male's semen.

To diagnose prostatitis, a physician will collect a patient's urine and thoroughly exam his prostate gland. To check the prostate gland, a physician will carry out a digital rectal examination, which involves inserting a well lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to check for any abnormalities of the gland. The physician also may collect a sample of prostate fluid so that it can be analyzed.

Some physicians also may want to carry out a prostate specific antigen test to measure the amount of this chemical in a person's blood. Both prostatitis and prostate cancer can increase a patient's PSA level.

Over the years, prostatitis has been subdivided into a number of categories, but today commonly accepted variations of the disease include nonbacterial, acute, and chronic.

By far, the most common type of prostatitis is nonbacterial prostatitis. Symptoms may include frequent urination and pain in the lower abdomen or lower back area. Causes may be stress and irregular sexual activity.

According to Dr. Leroy Nyberg, Jr., director of Urology Programs at the National Institutes of Health, treatments for nonbacterial prostatitis may include anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants, taking hot baths, drinking extra fluids, learning to relax when urinating, and ejaculating frequently. "Some physicians also may recommend some changes in a patient's diet," Dr. Nyberg said.

Acute bacterial prostatitis can be the result of bacteria, a virus, or a sexually transmitted disease. Symptoms may include fever and chills, low back pain, frequent and painful urination, weak stream urination, and infrequent urination.

Dr. Nyberg explained that these infections often are treated with antibiotics, bed rest, stool softener, and increased fluid intake.

Chronic prostatitis may be bacterial or the result of an inflammation of the prostate. Symptoms may include frequent bladder infections, frequent urination, and persistent pain in the lower abdomen or back.

This form of prostatitis often is treated with medications (often antibiotics), changes in the diet, biofeedback, and nonprescription supplements, according to Dr. Nyberg. Additional information about prostatitis can be found at the Foundation's web site--prostatitis.

PROSTATITIS FOUNDATION MOVES ON THREE FRONTS

Since its founding in 1995, The Prostatitis Foundation has focused its activities on three fronts: encouraging funding for increased prostatitis research, collecting data on the disease, and providing information about this chronic disease to a variety of audiences, including prostatitis patients and their families.

In early 1996, the Foundation and Dr. Richard Alexander of the University of Maryland testified before the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education about the need for research to find a cause and cure for prostatitis. The Foundation has provided oral or written testimony every year since that time.

In June of 1996, the Foundation along with the University of Illinois co-hosted a Grand Rounds in Urology on prostatitis. Also at this time, two workshops for prostatitis patients were organized and held in the Chicago area. About 70 patients attended.

The next Foundation milestone took place in 1998 when The National Institutes of Health announced the opening of five interactive prostatitis clinical research centers and a biostatisical support center. (Eventually, the number of clinical research centers expanded to 11.)

Also in 1998, the first International Workshop on Chronic Prostatitis was hosted by the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases.

In the following year, the second International Workshop on Chronic Prostatitis was sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

In 2000, NIDDK sponsored a third international prostatitis workshop. Also during that year, ABC-TV broadcast a discussion about prostatitis with Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson and Good Morning America host Charles Gibson.

The next year saw a delegation of Prostatitis Foundation leaders meet in Atlanta with Center for Disease Control leaders to discuss mutual interests regarding prostatitis. The Foundation also arranged a patient meeting at the American Agrological Association Annual Meeting in Anaheim.

In 2002, the Foundation co-hosted a meeting in Germany with The European Society of Andrology and The European Society of Infection in Urology.

Since one of the most difficult aspects of prostatitis is isolation. To help combat this problem, the Foundation helped initiate a roster of volunteers to participate in a telephone network to talk with patients about this disease and to help men deal with it. Individuals answering the phones share their own experiences with the diseases to help fellow prostatitis patients handle the problems associated with this medical problem.

From the time of its founding in 1995, the Foundation has been lead by its Director Mike Hennenfent.

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