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    UTIs in men

    On this page
    1. What are the causes of UTIs in men?
    2. What are the types of UTI?
    3. UTI symptoms in men
    4. UTI treatment for men
    5. Treatment for recurring UTIs
    6. When to seek emergency treatment for a UTI
    7. How to avoid UTIs in the future
    8. What is the difference between a UTI and a STI?

    Reviewed by Dr Bhavini Shah

    A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a common medical complaint that can usually be cleared up with antibiotics.

    UTIs can affect men, however they’re more common in women. Men who have a condition affecting the prostate, kidneys or bladder are more prone to UTIs. In this article we explore what causes UTIs in men, how and when you can get treatment.   

    Sign for the toilets

    What are the causes of UTIs in men?

    UTIs are usually caused by the bacteria in your poo getting into your urinary tract, urethra (the tube where wee comes out), bladder and kidneys. This is more likely to happen in women. Women have a shorter urethra that is closer to the anus, making it easier for the bacteria to enter and travel through the urinary tract.  

    However, men make up 20% of all UTI cases in the UK. Age is a major factor for UTIs in men as with it brings additional risk factors. For example, an enlarged prostate gland can make it difficult to empty your bladder fully, which can put you more at risk of developing a UTI. UTIs rarely develop in men under 50.  

    Things that can increase your risk of getting a UTI:

    • Having sex
    • Conditions that block your urinary tract like kidney stones
    • Conditions that prevent your bladder from draining
    • A urinary catheter
    • Diabetes
    • Having a weak immune system
    • Not drinking enough water and other fluids
    • Not keeping your genitals clean

    What are the types of UTI?

    There are a few different types of UTI each one affecting a different area of the urinary tract. Symptoms and causes may be similar.

    Cystitis

    One of the most common types of UTIs, cystitis is a bladder infection. Cystitis tends to be caused by bacteria in your bladder or urethra (the tube that carries wee out of your body). Symptoms include needing to wee more than usual, pain when weeing and pain low down in your stomach.

    Urethritis

    This UTI affects the tube (urethra) that carries wee from your bladder out of your body. The infection causes the tube to become swollen and sore. Symptoms are like cystitis, but you may also include discharge. It can be caused by an STI, if you notice symptoms, you should get treated to avoid spreading it to other people.

    Pyelonephritis

    Pyelonephritis is a kidney infection usually caused by cystitis spreading into the bladder. Symptoms can include those of cystitis, but you may also feel feverish, shivery and sick with pain in your back and side.  

    UTI symptoms in men

    The signs of UTIs in men include:

    • A painful or burning sensation when you urinate 
    • Needing to urinate more often than usual, including during the night 
    • Having the sudden, urgent need to urinate 
    • Cloudy urine 
    • Blood in your urine 
    • Pain in your abdomen or back 
    • A very high or a very low temperature

    In elderly people or those who have a urinary catheter, a UTI can cause psychological symptoms including confusion, agitation and changes in behaviour. They may also wet themselves and shiver or shake.

    “Symptoms of UTIs in men can be he same as they are in women. While most people experience mild symptoms, the infection can lead to complications. If you’re experiencing symptoms speak to your GP.”  - Dr Bhavini Shah  

    UTI treatment for men

    If you’re a man with the symptoms of a UTI, the NHS advises that you see a GP. At your appointment you’ll be asked about your symptoms, and you may have to give a urine sample.

    The standard treatment for a UTI is antibiotics – although the infection may clear up on its own. If your GP prescribes antibiotics, they may tell you to start taking them straight away, or to wait to see if your symptoms clear up without treatment. 

    “In addition to antibiotics, you can take paracetamol to ease any pain. You should also try to rest and drink lots of water and other fluids – the aim is to wee regularly, and for your urine to be pale coloured.” - Dr Bhavini Shah

    How long does a UTI last?

    Men are usually prescribed a 7-day course of antibiotics to treat a UTI. Once you have started treatment any UTI symptoms should improve within 3-5 days. You’ll need to complete the whole course of antibiotics even if you start to feel better.

    If your symptoms don’t get better or they get worse speak to your GP.

    Can UTIs in men be cured?

    Most UTIs in men can be cured with a course of antibiotics. However, UTIs can come back. If your symptoms return after treatment speak to your GP.

    Treatment for recurring UTIs

    Recurring UTIs are where the urine infection keeps coming back, even after treatment.  If you’re experiencing recurrent UTIs your GP may want to run some tests to check your kidneys, bladder or prostate.

    An underlying condition is likely the cause if the infection is affecting the kidneys or your symptoms aren’t responding to antibiotics.

    Treatment for recurring UTIs can include:

    • Your doctor prescribing a different antibiotic
    • Taking antibiotics for longer
    • Staying hydrated
    • Weeing after sex
    • Emptying your bladder fully when you go to the toilet
    • Treating the underlying cause of the UTI
    • Taking over the counter pain relief
    • Keeping your genitals clean 

    Can a blood test detect a UTI?

    Normally a urine sample is tested to see if you have a UTI. Your doctor may want to carry out additional tests of the kidneys, bladder or prostate if an underlying problem is suspected. 

    When to seek emergency treatment for a UTI

    If you have a UTI and any of the following symptoms you should contact 111 immediately: 

    • Have a very high temperature 
    • Feel hot and shivery 
    • Have a very low temperature 
    • Feel confused or drowsy 
    • Haven’t weed all day 
    • Have a pain your lower abdomen or in your back under your ribs 
    • Have blood in your urine 

    These kinds of symptoms are characteristic of a kidney infection, which can be serious if it’s not treated quickly. 

    How to avoid UTIs in the future

    There are things you can do to help prevent a UTI; such as:

    • Keep your genitals clean and dry
    • Drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day
    • Go to the toilet when you feel the urge to urinate – don’t hold it in!
    • Try to empty your bladder fully when you go to the toilet
    • Wee as soon as possible after sex 

    What is the difference between a UTI and a STI?

    The symptoms of an STI may be confused with a UTI, as both can cause a burning sensation when weeing. However, STIs can cause other symptoms like discharge from the penis.

    If you aren’t sure if you have a UTI or STI, it’s always safest to speak to a doctor about your symptoms – either at your GP surgery or a sexual health clinic. There are also at-home STI tests which you can use if you think you’ve been exposed to an STI.

    Conclusion

    Although UTIs may be less common in men than women, they can still cause some unpleasant symptoms like pain when weeing. If you think you have a UTI speak to your GP. Treatment is usually straightforward with some antibiotics prescribed by your GP. Staying hydrated and going to the toilet when you need to can help prevent UTIs.  

    References

    https://patient.info/mens-health/urine-infection-in-men
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/
    https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/how-soon-do-sti-symptoms-appear/
    https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/urinary-tract-infection-lower-men/background-information/prevalence/
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urethritis
    https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/kidneys-bladder-and-prostate/urinary-tract-infection-uti/  

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