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October 18, 2021

Urinary tract infections can affect men too – especially those over age 50

An enlarged prostate is a common cause of urinary tract infections

Former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized recently with a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, a potentially deadly condition known as sepsis. 

His hospitalization underscores the fact that men can develop UTIs, despite them being more common among women. And though they can be treated successfully with antibiotics, the infection can become dangerous if its spreads elsewhere in the body. 

An infection that spreads to the kidneys in the upper urinary tract is especially serious. Back or side pain, a high fever, chills, nausea and vomiting all could be signs of a kidney infection that requires immediate attention.

Causes of UTIs in men

UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system including the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra. The most common types are infections of the bladder and the urethra.

Women often develop urinary tract infections because they have a shorter urethra – the tube from which urine leaves the body. This makes it easier for bacteria to infiltrate the urinary system. Since men have a longer urethra, UTIs are less common, though some men may have an abnormal narrowing of the urethra.

About 12% of men will develop a urinary tract infection, urologist Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt wrote for CNN. Among men over age 50, an enlarged prostate often is to blame. The root cause is not being able to empty the bladder fully. Additionally, nerve damage from a stroke, uncontrolled diabetes and a spine injury also can make it difficult for men to completely void their bladders.

Infections also can start in other organs, such as the prostate or testicles, and spread to the bladder or vice versa. Kidney stones can lead to a urinary tract infection, too.

In younger men, sexually transmitted diseases can cause a urinary tract infection to develop. So can anal intercourse. Sometimes an infection also will occur after a surgical procedure on the urinary system or a procedure that required a urinary catheter.

Common urinary tract infection symptoms in men include frequent urination, a persistent urge to urinate, a burning or tingling sensation while urinating, cloudy urine with a strong odor and blood in the urine. 

Some men with prostate problems also have difficulty urinating. However, Some men don't develop any symptoms, which can make diagnosis a little trickier.

Preventing UTIs 

The best medicine, of course, is prevention. Men can reduce their risk of a urinary tract infection by getting a physical evaluation to make sure there isn't anything anatomical to fix, such as an enlarged prostate, kidney stones or a blockage.

Proper hygiene is important, too. Men with uncircumcised penises need to make sure they are able to retract their foreskin to completely clean under the foreskin and the glans.

Staying hydrated and properly emptying the bladder also is important. So is managing any chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Men who suspect they have urinary tract infections are advised to make an appointment to be evaluated by their primary health care providers. A urine analysis may be ordered.

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