When people think about urinary tract infections, their minds automatically make the term synonymous with women. There is good reason for this, considering that about 50 percent of women will develop a UTI at some time in their lives. On the other hand, the condition is rare in men, with estimates of only about three to five percent of men worldwide experiencing the trouble.
UTIs and men
Normally, a UTI settles in the urethra or the bladder, which makes it much easier to treat. It’s pretty simple for women to have UTIs, since their anatomy makes them prone to it. Both the proximity between the urethral opening and the vagina and anus, as well as the shorter length of the urethra, make women far more susceptible than men to getting bacteria into the urinary tract.
UTI symptoms in men
Many of the symptoms of a UTI are the same in men as in women, though there can be a few that are more pronounced due to a difference in anatomy.
- It’s painful or burns to pee
- The need to urinate is frequent and urgent
- It’s difficult to start urinating, and the stream of urine is slow or intermittent
- The need to pee arises suddenly, and often only small amounts of urine come out
- There is blood in the urine, or it’s cloudy with a strong odor
- There is pain, pressure, or a feeling of still holding urine in the lower abdomen
- The back and flanks become pained, sometimes unbearably
- Fever (low grade, mostly, or higher with a kidney infection) and chills develop
- Nausea and vomiting occur (usually with a more complex infection)
Seeing a physician as soon as these symptoms appear could make a big difference in avoiding long term treatment and complications for men.
Causes of UTIs and risk factors for men
In sexually active men, the possibility of developing a UTI based on E. coli (again, more so for those who engage in anal sex) is possible. However, this is not the most common cause of the infection for men. However, other sexually transmitted infections could lead to developing a UTI for men. More often, men develop UTIs due to excess E. coli in their own bodies. This is the most common reason for men over 50 getting a UTI.
The biggest risk factor for getting a UTI is being female. However, when taking that away, there are several characteristics that can increase the risk of UTIs in men:
- A history of kidney stones
- Enlarged prostate
- An abnormally narrow urethra
- Inability to completely empty the bladder
- Being uncircumcised
- A suppressed immune system
- A urinary tract abnormality
- Previous experience with UTIs
Because there are often things involved, such as kidney stones and other blockages, that lead to men having a UTI, they are usually complicated, with the infection all the way into the kidneys. Because of the seriousness of the situation, rather than offering a short three day course of antibiotics, men may be taking medication for up to two weeks to clear the infection.
The same problems create a scenario where recurrent and chronic UTIs are likely. For example, if a man is prone to kidney stones, and the kidney stones cause an infection, then it’s likely that UTI is going to keep coming back. Also, the bacteria may not be completely eradicated by the round of antibiotics and could still remain in the system in small enough amounts that it isn’t detected by a culture test. When that happens, the infection is almost certain to continue recurring until it’s completely cleared.
Diagnosing men with UTIs
Like women, men should see their physician at the first sign of a UTI. There are a few caveats to the diagnosis process, though it mostly mirrors what women go through to achieve the results and get treatment.
- Physical examination. Based on the symptoms, the doctor will likely check vital signs, palpate the areas around the abdomen and bladder, and in men, will probably check the genitals.
- Medical history. The physician will likely ask pointed questions about personal and family history, such as previous UTIs or if other members of the family suffer from them, as well as looking for some information on personal hygiene, lifestyle, and more.
- Testing. A urinalysis is usually requested so that the urine can be tested for bacteria, and a culture can be run to determine the type of bacteria.
- Imaging. X-rays or MRIs may be required, depending on certain aspects of the medical history, such as diabetes, kidney stones, or tuberculosis.
Preventing UTIs for men
In order to prevent developing UTIs, especially if they seem to be chronic, men can take several precautions.
- Emptying the bladder fully more frequently
- Drinking plenty of fluid, especially water (six to eight eight-ounce glasses a day)
- Remembering to clean under the foreskin if uncircumcised
- Cleaning the genital area before and after sex, as well as urinating after sex
- Using condoms during sex
- Cleaning from front to back after using the restroom
Men aren’t as susceptible to UTIs as women, but when they occur in men, they can be especially detrimental. From consequences such as eventual infertility to kidney stones and even sepsis, the complications of a male’s UTI can be extreme and dangerous. Seeing a physician immediately upon becoming symptomatic can save a lot of pain and suffering and keep UTIs from recurring or worsening.