TUESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Three treatments for chronic
pelvic pain syndrome in men -- antibiotics, anti-inflammatories,
and alpha-blockers or nerve inhibitors -- were found to be
effective in curing or reducing symptoms of the often puzzling
condition, according to a recent analysis of published
The review, published in the Jan. 5 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association, noted that about 9 percent of men in the United States suffer from different types of inflammation of the prostate gland, accounting for about 2 million medical visits annually. Symptoms include pain in the pelvis, urethra or penis, back pain, trouble urinating and frequent urination.
Up to 95 percent of these cases are caused by chronic pelvic
pain syndrome triggered by chronic prostatitis, an inflammation of
the prostate gland that surrounds the male urethra. The condition
-- usually caused by a chronic bacterial infection -- is most
likely to affect men between the ages of 35 and 45, according to
Not enough research has been done on effective treatments for
this condition, one expert said, noting that only 23 studies met
the researchers' criteria for inclusion.
"This is a very ambitious study, and it appears to shed some light on a very challenging condition," said Dr. Paul C. Cook, a urologist at the Hermann Memorial Medical Center in Houston, who was not connected to the study. "The fact that they distilled it down to only 23 studies in all the literature that met their criteria exemplifies that there [are so few] really good controlled studies out there."
The most effective treatment for chronic pelvic pain syndrome
was the combination of antibiotics and alpha-blockers, particularly
when the main symptom was pain while urinating, but
"anti-inflammatory medications remain an option for patients" who
seek help for pain, according to the authors of the report.
The researchers noted that the role of antibiotics was unclear,
since infection has to be ruled out before a man is diagnosed with
chronic pelvic pain syndrome. They speculated that the antibiotics
might work against unrecognized germs and noted that antibiotics
such as quinolones also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Chronic pelvic pain, or pain lasting three of the previous six
months, can be a very debilitating condition, said Cook. Symptoms
of chronic pelvic pain syndrome include pain in the pelvis, urethra
or penis, back pain, trouble voiding, sexual difficulties and
Alpha-blockers, used to block the nerves going into the muscles
of the prostate, are often prescribed along with antibiotics for
the condition. If that doesn't work another antibiotic is tried.
But a man with chronic pelvic pain shouldn't just keep switching
around "from one antibiotic to another," Cook said.
"If the patient comes back and the treatment isn't working, it's time to rethink the diagnosis," he suggested. "It's time to start thinking outside the box."
Other conditions that can cause chronic pelvic pain include
pudendal nerve entrapment (when nerves get trapped in bony canals)
and compression of blood vessels in the pelvis, sometimes caused by
long distance bicycle riding, Cook noted.
Calling chronic pelvic pain a "poorly understood condition,"
Cook said patients need to become proactive.
"It's very important that the patient be a partner with their physician," he said. "I always encourage patients to do independent research on their condition." This sometimes results in a patient helping to pinpoint what is wrong, said Cook.
As men get older the prostate grows naturally, but men sometimes
develop an enlarged prostate that presses on the urethra, causing
pain and interfering with urination. An enlarged prostate can be
treated (shrunken) with medication.
In the study, an international team looked at research published
between 1949 and 2010 that compared numerous treatments and their
impact on pain, voiding, quality of life and total symptom scores.
More than 1,500 subjects were included in the analysis.
Other treatments included steroids, phytotherapy (plant-based
alternative medicines), finasteride (also used to treat enlarged
prostate) and gabapentinoids, which are used to treat nerve pain.
The researchers found that phytotherapies and finasteride might
benefit some patients, but added that more research was needed.
Another expert said the study was important because chronic
pelvic pain syndrome can cause "enormous frustration" and can
interfere with sexual function and overall quality of life.
"For the most part they [patients] fare well," said Dr. David Samadi, vice chairman of urology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Everyone's regimen is a little different. But there are patients who go on for years [with symptoms] and end up trying alternative medicines because they become desperate."
And, he added, 20 to 25 percent of patients with chronic pelvic
pain fail to find effective treatment.
A very stubborn bacteria may sometimes be the cause, said
Samadi, also chief of robotics and minimally invasive surgery at
"We have tried injecting antibiotics directly into the prostate" in such cases, said Samadi, "with some success." He cautioned against overusing alpha-blockers because they can cause drowsiness, headaches and low blood pressure.
Factors that predispose men to the pelvic pain syndrome include
infection, hormone imbalance, allergic and immune system triggers,
and psychological and hereditary traits, according to the
researchers. Samadi also noted that men who are not sexually active
for a long time may be a bit more prone to the syndrome.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about