Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are often associated with women, but they are not an infection that only affects this one gender. Despite being rare in men, men can develop a UTI, and, for men, a UTI very quickly becomes a more complicated infection.
Because of the risk of complicated UTIs, men must be aware of the UTI symptoms and seek immediate medical help should they appear. Taking action to prevent a UTI is also possible (and important) for men as well as women.
Table of Contents
- Can Men Get UTIs?
- How Common Are UTIs in Males?
- How Do Men Get Urinary Tract Infections?
- UTI Symptoms in Men
- How Are UTIs Diagnosed?
- How to Treat a UTI?
- How Can Men Prevent UTIs?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
Can Men Get UTIs?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when a pathogen, such as a virus, fungi, or (most commonly) bacteria, enters the urinary tract and infects the urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidneys.
UTIs are most common in women, which can cause many to wonder if it is possible for a man to get a UTI. However, despite being less likely, men possess all of these urinary tract elements, which makes it possible for them to develop a UTI.
How Common Are UTIs in Males?
Despite a UTI being one of the most common infections to affect women, it is relatively rare in men. In fact, it is estimated that only 3% of men each year get a UTI, meaning many men may never have a UTI in their life.
The main reason why men are less likely than women to develop a UTI is because they have longer urethras, which makes it less likely for the bacteria to travel this long distance to the bladder.
How Do Men Get Urinary Tract Infections?
UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract, most often through the urethra. Most UTIs affect the bladder, which occurs when the bacteria travel through the urinary tract to the bladder. If the bladder is not emptied frequently, the bacteria can grow, reproduce, and cause infection.
Some conditions that can increase the risk of UTI in men include:
- benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH); an enlarged prostate
- kidney stones
- recent urinary catheter use
- abnormal narrowing of the urethra
These conditions increase the risk of UTI in men because they affect how well men can empty their bladder or increase the amount of sugar in the body (for those with diabetes), which acts as food for harmful bacteria.
Catheter use is another common cause of UTIs in both genders because they provide an additional introduction site for bacteria into the urinary tract. Long-term catheter use, in particular, increases UTI risk.
For older men, especially those older than 50, UTI risk increases and is often caused by the bacteria E. coli, which naturally resides in the body.
UTIs that affect younger men often result from a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
UTI Symptoms in Men
UTI symptoms in men and women are generally the same and can include:
- urgent need to urinate
- frequent urination
- burning or tingling while urinating or right after
- blood in urine
- difficulty urinating, especially for those with prostate issues
- releasing only small amounts of urine
- pain in the central lower part of the abdomen
- urine with a strong odor
- white or frothy discharge
Signs of a complicated UTI, which men are more susceptible to, include:
- back pain
How Are UTIs Diagnosed?
Three methods doctors may use to diagnose a UTI include taking a medical history, physical examinations, and laboratory tests.
When taking a medical history, your physician will likely ask if you have had UTIs in the past or what symptoms you are currently experiencing. They may then perform a physical exam to check for signs of pain or swelling in the bladder areas, abdomen, back, and sides.
Your doctor may then order a urine sample to look for the presence of bacteria or pus, both signs of infection. When men provide a urine sample, they need to start the urine stream to clean the urethra before collecting the sample midstream. Your doctor will either send this sample to the lab immediately or refrigerate it until it can be sent later.
There is also a quicker way to check for a UTI, which is through a urine test strip. With this test, a paper or plastic ribbon is quickly dipped into the urine sample. If you have a UTI, the ribbon will turn a specific color.
How to Treat a UTI?
The treatment for a UTI typically consists of antibiotics to kill the bacteria, which are taken anywhere from 3 days to 6 weeks, depending on how severe the infection is and the presence of any complicating factors. However, a treatment duration of minimally 7 days is most common.
Men with a UTI may also be prescribed medicine to reduce a fever or pain.
In more severe cases, surgery may be required, which consists of draining the areas of the urinary tract causing infection or removing inflamed tissues.
While it is crucial for those of both genders to receive UTI treatment if they suspect this type of infection, it is even more important for men. This is because UTIs in men are most often considered complicated, and there is a greater risk of them spreading to the upper urinary tract and the kidneys. Because of this risk, prompt treatment is crucial, and in some cases, surgery may be needed to clear the infection.
How Can Men Prevent UTIs?
There are some home remedies that can help men prevent UTIs.
Drinking plenty of water is the most important preventive measure for both men and women, as it helps to stimulate urination, which flushes bacteria from the body.
Drink Cranberry Juice
While evidence that cranberry juice treats UTIs is limited, research has shown that cranberry juice contains compounds that make it difficult for bacteria to adhere to the urinary tract, which helps flush them from the body when urinating and prevents UTIs from developing.
Urinate When Needed
Refraining from urinating allows bacteria to grow and reproduce, which is why it is important to empty the bladder whenever the urge arises. Additionally, it is crucial to fully empty the bladder when urinating, otherwise, bacteria may still linger.
Since UTIs occur from bacteria entering the urethra, hygiene habits can help prevent this from happening. For those who are sexually active, it is crucial to cleanse the genitals before and after sex to remove bacteria. Additionally, urinating after sex helps remove any bacteria that may have entered the urethra during intercourse.
For uncircumcised men, it is also important to clean the area under the foreskin, as bacteria can accumulate here.
Wear a Condom
Wearing a condom during sex decreases the risk of bacteria entering the urethra. This is especially important for men partaking in anal sex, as the bacteria that most often cause UTIs, E. coli, naturally reside in and around the anus.
Wearing a condom also helps to prevent STIs, which are often the cause of UTIs in younger men.
When to See a Doctor?
While UTIs are rare in men, they are more often complicated when they do occur. For this reason, it is important for men to see a doctor whenever they experience symptoms of a UTI, such as painful, frequent, and urgent urination.
If left untreated, a UTI can travel up the urinary tract to the kidneys, which is a more severe infection. Kidney infection also increases the risk of full-body infection, a condition called sepsis that can be life-threatening. To prevent these more severe complications, it is vital to see a doctor whenever symptoms of a UTI are present, especially if you have:
- a fever
- blood in urine
- pain in the side or back
- nausea or vomiting
For those with the symptoms of a UTI, an online doctor such as DrHouse offers a quick and convenient way to discuss your symptoms and receive an antibiotic prescription, allowing you to begin treatment quickly. PS! We cannot treat men’s Urinary Tract Infections without lab tests. Our providers must review your lab results to provide a treatment plan.
UTIs are most often bacterial infections of the bladder that can cause painful, frequent, and urgent urination, symptoms that both genders share. While women are more likely to develop UTIs due to their shorter urethra, it is still possible for men to contract one. This is especially likely in older men and those who use a catheter long-term.
While UTIs are rarer in men, they are also more likely to be complicated, which is why they require prompt treatment. Most cases of UTI in men are treated with 7 days (at minimum) of antibiotics, but surgery may be necessary in some cases. If left untreated, a UTI can quickly become a kidney infection or sepsis, which is why immediate treatment is necessary.
Despite UTIs being rare in men, some preventive actions can be taken to further lower this likelihood, such as drinking plenty of water and properly cleansing the genitals. For those who have symptoms of a UTI, meeting with an online doctor is a quick and convenient way to discuss your symptoms and receive treatment. PS! We cannot treat men’s Urinary Tract Infections without lab tests. Our providers must review your lab results to provide a treatment plan.
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