A urinary tract infection UTI, is an infection caused by bacteria that affects any part of the urinary system, consisting of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. Most UTIs affects the urethra that drains urine from the bladder to outside the body.
UTI is four times more common in women than men. UTIs are estimated to affect only 3% of men worldwide yearly. This means that most men will have never had a UTI, especially if they are young. However, when a UTI develops in men, it is usually complicated and may likely to spread to the kidneys and upper urinary tract if left untreated.
Men with UTIs may have little or no symptoms of the infection. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
- sudden and frequent urge to urinate
- painful urination
- cloudy urine with a strong odor
- blood in urine
- inability to start urinating
- a slow urine stream or urine leakage
- the release of only small amounts of urine at a time
- pain in the central lower part of the abdomen
Men with complicated UTIs can also experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- back pain
These symptoms are signs that most likely indicate 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.
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Causes and risk factors
UTIs 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). When the bacterium gets into the urinary tract through the urethra and starts multiplying, UTI develops.
Men have longer urethras than women, making them less susceptible to UTIs because bacteria need to travel a longer distance to reach the bladder.
A person’s risk of developing a UTI increases if they have:
- enlarged prostate
- kidney stones
- abnormal narrowing of the urethra
- inability to voluntarily control urination
- inability to empty the bladder completely
- not been circumcised
- a past diagnosis of a UTI
- 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 sexual intercourse, by getting the bacteria from an infected woman. However, this is unlikely since the infection arises from bacteria that are already present in the man’s body.
A doctor can diagnose a UTI by carrying out a physical examination and laboratory tests such as urine analysis and imaging tests.
The goal of UTI treatment in men is to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys or the upper urinary tract. Treatment usually include antibiotics to kill the bacteria and drugs to reduce symptoms.
Medication prescribed by a doctor may include:
- antibiotics, such as nitrofurantoin (Macrobid), fluoroquinolones, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), fosfomycin, or aminoglycosides
- medications to reduce the fever
- medications to reduce or eliminate pain, including urinary analgesics such as phenazopyridine
Those with more complicated infections may require surgery. This can involve either draining areas of the urinary tract that are causing the infection, or removing inflamed areas of tissue.
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In addition to treatment from doctors, the following home remedies may help with treating or relieving the symptoms of UTI infection:
- Drink lots of liquids, especially water 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, because it contains substance that make it difficult for bacteria to remain in the urinary tract.