My November-December episode of prostatitis wasn't the first and the urologist told me it probably wouldn't be the last. He said that after one contracts prostatitis, it tends to slowly become a chronic condition. It may be a lifelong companion.
The question in my mind has been: is this related to ME/CFS, or just another sign of getting older? I believe it is probably related for several reasons. First, I never had chronic prostatitis before ME/CFS. Before, I had one bad episode of a urinary tract infection, and would occasionally get some mild symptoms similar to what I experience now--but nothing as severe as this new pain.
I now believe those early, mild symptoms were warning signs. I believe they were signs that the underlying cause of my ME/CFS (a weak immune system) had been building toward a tipping point for some time before I came down with ME/CFS. (More on why I believe that in a future post)
As I researched prostatitis, I began to see many familiar themes from the ME/CFS community. Prostatitis is normally a chronic condition of unknown origin. It tends to baffle doctors. Doctors (even urologists) often become frustrated with chronic prostatitis patients because they don't know how to solve the patients' problems. (Prostatitis Foundation). Sound familiar?
Prostatitis is essentially a disease of inflammation. While a small percentage of acute prostatitis cases are caused by bacterial infection, most are caused by inflammation of unknown origin. (Prostatitis Foundation).
Here's a list of the possible causes of prostatitis, from the Prostatitis Foundation website. I've highlighted the areas of cross-over from ME/CFS:
- Bacterial infection,
- Auto-immune response or disordered immune response,
- Neuromuscular, tension or physical injury problem
- Additional possible causes:
- a uric acid disorder,
- prostate stones,
- a urethral stricture,
- a rare tumor,
- prostate cancer,
- benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, non-cancerous growth of the prostate),
- a food allergy,
- a yeast infestation,
- a specific yeast problem from the Genus Candida,
- or a virus. (Prostatitis Foundation)
And then there's this quote from the Prostatitis Foundation website:
There's growing interest in the idea that prostatitis may be caused by immune disorders or allergies, in which case treating the inflammation is the way to go. ... There are research trials underway with the drug Elmiron, which addresses auto-immunity and mast cell responses. And antibiotics themselves have anti-inflammatory benefits. (http://prostatitis.org/methods.html)Then there is the Candida connection. It seems both ME/CFS and prostatitis often go hand-in-hand with Candida overgrowth, which points back to immune dysfunction.
A significant number of men with chronic prostatitis have found relief ranging from a cure to welcome diminution of symptom severity after following an anti-candida regimen. ....
It is uncertain whether a yeast overgrowth in the gut lowers general body resistance by attacking the immune system, thereby allowing dormant bacteria in the prostate to re-activate (proven science: [Candida] toxins disarm elements of the immune system), or whether the effects on the immune system result in non-bacterial inflammation to the prostate tissue (and often the sinuses as well - another poorly perfused part of the body), or indeed whether the organism actually infects the prostate tissue directly....
Here follows a shortened list of the associated symptoms which typically accompany a CA-induced prostatitis ... painful lymph nodes ... unexplained fatigue ... always catching colds and flus ... mental confusion, fogginess ... cold hands and feet ... (http://prostatitis.org/fungus.html)All this gives rise to the possibility in my mind that prostatitis is yet another related or "co-morbid condition" with ME/CFS. The good news is that, before ME/CFS, I would have probably visited a couple of doctors, who would probably shrug and fail to offer much help. At that point I would have simply accepted that this condition is just a new fact of life. Now, I'm much more motivated and have the tools and general understanding of the inflammatory conditions in my body to actually do something about it.
Just like with ME/CFS in general, I'm going to start trying various treatments (both self-help and through doctors) until I find something that works best for me. But I know now not to rely solely on my doctors. I know to take responsibility for my own care and to research and understand the condition as well as I can... and most importantly, to be a partner with my doctors, not just a blind follower. I'm optimistic that, while I may not find a cure, I'll find ways to gain at least some measure of control over the symptoms. In the end, that's all I can ask for.
End Note: For those thinking that I may have prostate cancer, I have had a couple of digital rectal exams [DRE's] in the last couple of years, and all were unremarkable. But, from what I've read, one must always rule out the possibility of prostate cancer when he has symptoms of prostatitis.