Man with tablet in hands. Urinary system on screen. Urology concept.

Can men get UTIs?

According to the CDC, more than 8 million people in the United States annually visit a healthcare professional for urinary tract infections, or UTIs. These numbers mean that UTIs are the most common kind of bacterial infection in this country. While the vast majority of these infections occur in cisgender women, there are times when a cisgender man can have a UTI as well.

What can cause a UTI in males?

A UTI occurs when bacteria infect part of the urinary system (aka, renal system), which is comprised of the kidneys, ureters (ducts connecting kidneys to bladders), the bladder, and the urethra.

Cisgender women are therefore much more susceptible to UTIs since their urethrae are shorter, which means it’s easier for bacteria to travel through the urinary tract. Furthermore, their urethrae are much closer to their anuses, which means it’s much easier for bacteria from the anus to enter the urethra.

Causes of UTIs in men

That being said, while it’s harder for cisgender men to develop UTIs, it can still happen. Common causes of UTIs in cisgender males include:

  • Anal sex
  • Being sedentary
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Diabetes
  • Not being circumcised
  • Waiting to use the restroom

Why do these cause urinary tract infections, though?

Anal sex

Penetrative anal sex can introduce the urethra to lots of UTI-causing bacteria. Using a condom while engaging in penetrative anal intercourse can reduce the risk of a UTI.

Being sedentary for extended lengths of time

Staying stationary or in one position for extended periods of time means there’s more time for bacteria to come into contact with the urinary tract system and cause infections without much interference.

Not drinking enough fluids

Drinking enough fluids helps flush the system of harmful bacteria. The opposite is also true: not drinking enough fluids can mean that bacteria stays in the system longer, which means more time to potentially cause an infection.

Diabetes

There are a few ways that diabetes can increase the risk of a urinary tract infection. Perhaps the most common way is that diabetes can cause nerve damage. Therefore, diabetics might wait longer than they should to use the restroom; this wait means that bacteria can stay in their systems longer, meaning more time to multiply and infect the renal system.

Another potential reason for higher numbers of UTIs in those with diabetes? Diabetes can also lead to poor circulation. Poor circulation means it’s harder for infection-fighting white blood cells to travel to potential sites of infection.

Not being circumcised

Being uncircumcised can mean bacteria have greater chances of coming into contact with the urethra. Practicing proper hygiene greatly reduces this risk.

Waiting to use the restroom

Holding urine in for extended periods of time means there is ample opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause an infection.

What are the symptoms of a UTI in males?

Common symptoms of UTIs for men include:

  • Bloody urine
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Itching sensation while urinating
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Low-grade fever (usually 98.7° F/37.5° C to 100.4° F/38.3° C for adults)
  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Urgent need to urinate

Sometimes, the infection can become serious. Serious symptoms of UTIs that require medical attention include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Painful or tender sides
  • Painful or tender upper back
  • Nausea and vomiting

These signs point to an infection of the kidneys, known as an upper urinary tract infection. Kidney infections can be serious, or even life-threatening, if bacteria travel to the bloodstream. When this movement occurs, it results in sepsis (urosepsis, specifically).

How does a male get rid of a urinary tract infection?

Treatment for UTIs typically involves antibiotics. (Importantly, research suggests taking probiotics with antibiotics may do more harm than good.) In addition to taking and completing the full round of antibiotics, people often use self-care remedies like:

  • Drinking more fluids
  • Drinking cranberry juice
  • Maintaining proper levels of vitamin C
  • Urinating when the urge “to go” strikes

Ways to reduce the risk of UTIs in the future include:

  • Using the restroom when the urge “to go” strikes
  • Not staying immobile for long periods of time
  • Practicing safer sex
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Staying hydrated

Final Thoughts

UTIs are more than just annoying; in some cases, they can be downright dangerous. Although they most often affect cisgender women, cisgender men may also develop urinary tract infections. When these occur, treatment is typically a simple round of antibiotics. Reducing the risk of UTIs in the future is also fairly simple by taking preventative measures like practicing good hygiene and drinking enough water.

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