A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the organs of your body that are meant to funnel urine out of your system, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections are bacterial and start in the bladder, but they also can originate from the kidney, urethra or elsewhere.
Although women more routinely get UTIs, men can get them too. Women have a shorter urethra, which is the tube that connects the bladder to the outside world. Because of the shorter urethra, women are at a higher risk for bacteria from the outside to enter the urinary system. The risk goes up after menopause when the lining of the vagina wall loses some ability to keep bacteria away.
Men have longer urethras, so they have more protection against urinary infections. But when men get a UTI, it should be taken seriously. In men, there often is an underlying cause to the infection, beyond just the length of their urethras.
Men’s Risk of UTIs
Older men tend to get more UTIs than younger men. I usually see men get recurrent infections when they do not properly empty their bladder because of an enlarged prostate. Men may not empty their bladder for other reasons such as nerve damage from stroke, diabetes or trauma to the spine.
Men also can get infections that start from their prostate or even their testicles that travel up into the bladder — or the opposite can happen when an infection goes from the bladder to the other body parts. Infections also can happen if kidney stones block the flow of urine.
Younger men also may develop urinary infections because of sexually transmitted diseases. Or a recent procedure done in the urinary system may lead to an infection. There are many causes for why a guy may get a UTI. None should be ignored, and we as urologists take all of them seriously.
Symptoms of a UTI in Men
- Burning with urination
- Urinating more frequently
- Urgent need to urinate
- Foul-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Pain in the abdomen near the bladder
Diagnosing and Treating UTIs
UTIs can be diagnosed by your primary care doctor—you don’t have to see a specialist initially. To diagnose a UTI, your doctor will send a sample of your urine to a lab for a urine culture where the urine is processed and evaluated for bacteria. The culture also can tell us what bug you have and what antibiotics can be used to help treat the infection. A urine analysis, which can be done quickly in our office, can suggest an infection, however, the best test is an actual culture.
Most UTIs are treated with oral antibiotics. However, there are superbugs that may be resistant to what we can give you by mouth, and those would require using stronger antibiotics through an IV. Most treatments last 5 to 7 days, but can be longer.
A quick internet search will give you home remedies for treating a UTI, but I don’t recommend this. Untreated infections can spread to the rest of your body and put your life at risk.
The best way to avoid UTIs is first making sure there is nothing anatomical that needs to be corrected, such as an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, blockages, et cetera. Other considerations include:
- Proper hygiene for men with uncircumcised penises should include retracting the foreskin and cleaning under the foreskin and the glans properly.
- Making sure you don’t hold your urine too long.
- Cranberry supplements have been shown to help prevent infections.
- Staying hydrated by drinking enough fluids/water during the day.
If you think you have a UTI, get treatment ASAP. Your future self will thank you.
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