What Men Need to Know About UTIs
Last year, 42nd President Bill Clinton was hospitalized with complications from a urinary tract infection. The infection had spread to his bloodstream.
It brought national attention to a problem that may not be particularly common among men, but which can become very serious when it occurs.
UTIs are four times more common among women than men. That’s mainly because men have longer urethras than women. So, bacteria have a more challenging distance to travel to reach the bladder.
In fact, only about 3% of men are affected by UTIs worldwide each year. That means most men will never get one. But over their lifetimes, 12% of men will get urinary symptoms linked to a UTI.
And when they do, it is often considered more complicated. And it’s more likely to spread to the kidneys and upper urinary tract.
What Causes a UTI?
What is a UTI? It’s an infection caused by bacteria in any part of the urinary system. That includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
Most UTIs affect the urethra and the bladder. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder to outside the body.
The majority of infections are caused by the bacterium known as Escherichia coli, which is naturally present in the body.
The UTI develops when the bacterium enter the urinary tract through the urethra and start multiplying. Some infections can start in the prostate or testicles and then move into the bladder. Or the other way around.
Unpleasant Symptoms Are a Sign
Sometimes men with UTIs have no symptoms. But when symptoms develop, they can include a frequent urge to urinate. As well as an inability to start urinating and a slow urine stream or urine leakage.
There can also be pain during urination or blood in the urine. Plus the release of only small amounts of urine at a time. Or cloudy urine with a strong odor or pain in the central lower part of the abdomen.
Diagnosis usually occurs through a urine culture. Treatment includes antibiotic medications and perhaps drugs to reduce symptoms. Usually seven to 10 days’ worth.
Complicated UTIs can cause other symptoms. They include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and back pain. Those symptoms are probably a sign that the infection has spread to the kidneys or the upper urinary tract.
At that point, strong IV antibiotics are started immediately to control the infection, usually in a hospital.
Over 50? You’re More at Risk
Older men have a higher risk of having a UTI. Especially after age 50. Men most at risk for contracting a UTI are those who have suffered from diabetes or kidney stones. Or who have had nerve damage from stroke or an injury to the spine.
Others are those with an enlarged prostate or an abnormal narrowing of the urethra. Or those with an inability to voluntarily control urination or an inability to empty the bladder completely.
A past diagnosis of a UTI also increases the risk. As does not drinking enough liquids and not being circumcised.
Finally, men most at risk include those with a health condition or those taking medication that suppresses the immune system. Or those who have had a procedure involving instrumentation on the urinary tract.
After seriously considering this unpleasant subject, I wanted to find out what I could do now to try to prevent it from happening to me. You may feel the same way. Here are the three main things I found.
- Empty your bladder often and fully.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Especially water.
- Clean from front to back while toileting.
You might have heard that drinking cranberry juice is effective as a UTI preventative. While that hasn’t been scientifically proven, cranberry juice does contain substances that make it difficult for bacteria to stay in the urinary tract.
Such as antioxidants including polyphenols that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Personally, I think it’s worth drinking cranberry juice for these reasons.
If you can’t stand the taste, it can be mixed with grape juice. But the higher percentage of cranberry juice, the better. There are also cranberry supplements you can take.
Good Health Is a Priority
Merely staying in good health can also help in avoiding a UTI. With a healthy body, you are more likely to stave off illnesses that can lower your resistance and keep your immune system stronger. So, eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
If you are not circumcised, carefully clean the area under the foreskin after showering.
If you are sexually active, here are a few more tips for attempting to avoid UTIs.
- Wear a condom during sex.
- Carefully clean the genitals before and after sex, to remove bacteria.
- Urinate after sex to remove any bacteria that may have passed during intercourse.
Prevention and Treatment
As with all health issues, prevention is the best medicine. We men owe it to ourselves to do whatever we can to avoid a UTI.
But if it appears we have one, we should get it taken care of as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the worse it might get.
We’re fortunate to live at a time when there are more effective ways to deal with UTIs than ever before.
Let’s take care of ourselves, men.