A urinary tract infection is an infection caused by bacteria in any part of the urinary system, which is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra.
Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect the bladder and the urethra, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder to outside the body.
Although a UTI is one of the most common infections in women, it is rare in men. UTIs are estimated to affect around 3 percent of men worldwide each year. This means that most men will have never had a UTI, especially if they are young.
When a UTI develops in men, it is usually considered complicated and more likely to spread to the kidneys and upper urinary tract. Some cases may even require surgery. We learn more about this condition, including its symptoms and treatment options, in this article.
A frequent urge to urinate is one of the symptoms of a UTI.
Men with UTIs may have no signs or symptoms of the infection. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:
- pain during urination
- frequent urge to urinate
- inability to start urinating
- a slow urine stream or urine leakage
- a sudden need to urinate
- the release of only small amounts of urine at a time
- blood in urine
- pain in the central lower part of the abdomen
- cloudy urine with a strong odor
Men with complicated UTIs can also experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- back pain
These symptoms are signs that the disease has spread to the kidneys or the upper urinary tract. An infection that has spread here is a more serious problem that requires prompt treatment.
UTIs are caused by bacteria. Older men have a higher risk of having a UTI, especially if they are after the age of 50. Most cases in older men are caused by the bacterium known as Escherichia coli, which is naturally present in the body.
Cases similar to UTIs in younger men are typically caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
A UTI develops when the bacterium gets into the urinary tract through the urethra and starts multiplying.
As men have longer urethras than women, they are less prone to UTIs because bacteria need to travel a longer distance to reach the bladder.
UTIs are four times more common in women than in men.
A person’s risk of developing a UTI increases if they have:
- kidney stones
- an enlarged prostate
- an abnormal narrowing of the urethra
- an inability to voluntarily control urination
- an inability to empty the bladder completely
- not drunk enough liquids
- not been circumcised
- a past diagnosis of a UTI
- urinary tract abnormalities that prevent urine from leaving the body normally or cause urine to back up in the urethra
- had anal intercourse, which can expose the urethra to bacteria
- a health condition or taking medication that suppresses the immune system
- had a procedure involving instrumentation on the urinary tract
Examples of these procedures include the insertion of a tube to drain the bladder, or a small camera, known as a cystoscopy, to examine the bladder and urethra.
Can men get UTIs from women?
Men can get UTIs from women during sex, by getting the bacteria from a woman with the infection. However, this is unlikely.
Typically, the infection arises from bacteria that are already present in the man’s body.
UTIs in men are usually complicated and require treatment.
The goal of treatment is to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys or the upper urinary tract.
The type of treatment used depends on the cause of the infection. Treatment plans usually include antibiotic medications to kill the bacteria and drugs to reduce the person’s symptoms, including those of pain and burning while urinating.
The duration of treatment can vary between 3 days and 6 weeks, depending on complicating factors, though a minimum of 7 days is usually warranted.
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In addition to treatment from doctors, the following home remedies may help with treating an infection:
- Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water. This is important to stimulate urination and flush the bacteria from the body.
- Drinking cranberry juice. Although it is not scientifically proven that cranberry juice is effective against UTIs, it contains substances that make it difficult for bacteria to stay in the urinary tract, helping to flush it out. Cranberry juice is available for purchase online.
Not drinking sufficient liquids raises the risk of a urinary tract infection.
Men can take a series of actions to reduce the risk of getting a UTI, such as:
- emptying the bladder often
- drinking plenty of liquids, especially water
- carefully cleaning the area under the foreskin after showering if not circumcised
- carefully cleaning the genitals before and after sex, to remove bacteria
- cleaning from front to back when toileting
- wearing condoms during sex.
- urinating after sex, to remove any bacteria that might have been passed during intercourse