Males can get urinary tract infections, and they are typically classified as complicated infections. Symptoms may include urgency, frequency, and burning when you urinate.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria, often from the rectum or skin, enter and overgrow in the bladder, kidneys, or the tubes that drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
Most UTIs can be cured easily with antibiotic drugs.
In this article, we use “male and female” to refer to someone’s sex as determined by their chromosomes, and “men and women” when referring to their gender (unless quoting from sources using nonspecific language).
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
UTIs in males are more common with older age. One reason is that older males are more likely to develop noncancerous enlargement of their prostate gland, called benign prostatic hyperplasia. The prostate wraps around the neck of the bladder, where the urethra connects to the bladder. Enlargement of the prostate gland can compress the bladder neck, making it harder for urine to flow freely. If the bladder does not empty completely, bacteria that are normally flushed out with the urine can gain a foothold.
The symptoms of a bladder infection include:
- painful urination and a burning sensation
- needing to urinate frequently
- sudden urge to empty your bladder, called urinary urgency
- pain in your central lower abdomen, just above the pubic bone
- blood in your urine
Certain symptoms in addition to those of a UTI could mean you have a prostate infection (prostatitis). These can include:
- difficulty urinating or “dribbling”
- pain in your pelvis
Most UTIs are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is naturally present in your body. The bacteria gets into the urinary tract through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from your bladder through your penis.
Factors that can put you at greater risk for UTIs may include the following:
- a previous UTI
- long-term use of a urinary catheter
- being immobile for long periods
- not drinking enough fluids
- recent urinary tract or kidney surgery
- urinary tract blockages like kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
- being uncircumcised
- fecal incontinence
- engaging in anal intercourse, which can expose the urethra to more bacteria
To diagnose a UTI, a doctor will examine you and ask about symptoms, including any past history of UTIs. You will likely be asked to provide a urine sample to check for bacteria and white blood cells, which indicate that your body is fighting an infection.
Sometimes the doctor will perform a urine culture to get more information about the bacteria causing the infection. If you have had a UTI before, a doctor might also perform an ultrasound to check for abnormalities in your urinary tract.
UTIs are categorized into two categories, uncomplicated and complicated. An uncomplicated UTI affects the lower urinary tract and is also known as cystitis or a bladder infection. An uncomplicated UTI is treated with antibiotics, and people typically recover within
Anytime a person with a penis has a UTI it is considered complicated.
UTIs are considered complicated if they affect certain groups. This can include:
- people who have a penis
- pregnant people
- people who are immunocompromised
- older adults
- people who use catheters
- people who experience recurring UTIs
If you think you have a UTI, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor. They will typically make a diagnosis you based on your urine sample. You also may have to get an ultrasound to check for any abnormalities in your urinary system.
If you have a UTI, you will likely need to take antibiotic medications. Depending on the type of antibiotic a doctor prescribes, you may take the medication for
It’s also important to drink adequate fluids. You may be tempted to reduce your fluid intake if urinating is uncomfortable. But urinating can help flush the bacteria from your system. It important to stay hydrated if you have a UTI, including while taking antibiotics.
Many people drink cranberry juice when they have a UTI in hopes of clearing the infection. Lab experiments with mice showed that several substances in cranberry juice lowered the bacteria count in the bladder. This suggests that there may be some benefits to drinking cranberry juice for humans with UTIs. However, there is no strong evidence that drinking cranberry juice while you have a UTI eliminates the infection or speeds recovery.
After starting antibiotics, you should feel noticeably better within
It’s important to finish all antibiotics prescribed, even if you’re feeling better. Stopping your antibiotics prematurely can encourage the growth of bacteria resistant to common antibiotics. In effect, less than the full course of treatment kills off the “weak” bacteria, leaving them stronger and more resistant strains.
People with prostates may need to take a longer course antibiotics in case the infection has reached the prostate, according to the
If you think you have a UTI, you should seek medical attention right away. If left untreated, a UTI can spread from your lower to the upper urinary tract and cause a kidney infection like pyelonephritis.
Symptoms of a UTI that involves the kidneys can include:
- pain in your sides or back that doesn’t change when you change position
- fever and chills
- nausea and vomiting
- a burning sensation when you urinate
If you have a kidney infection and can take medication by mouth, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Some people, such as children or those with other health concerns or complications, may have to stay in the hospital for treatment.
If pyelonephritis or an upper urinary tract infection is left untreated, it can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life threatening condition.
Symptoms of sepsis can
- irregular or fast heart rate
- sudden changes in body temperature
- change in mental status
- fever and chills
- difficulty breathing
Sepsis can be caused by an infection in the urinary tract. Treatment for sepsis includes hospitalization, antibiotics, and fluids.
Sepsis is a life threatening infection. If you believe you or someone else may have sepsis, seek immediate emergency medical attention or call your local emergency services.
To prevent UTIs, the most important thing is to reduce the chance of bacteria invading your urinary tract. Steps you can take to prevent UTIs may include:
- Urinate when you feel the need. Don’t “hold it in.”
- Drink adequate fluids. For most people, that means drinking when thirsty and drinking during meals. When it’s hot and you’re active in hot weather, drink a little extra water.
- Keep your genital area clean and dry.
UTIs are less common in people with penises but have similar causes and treatment. Taking antibiotic medications usually clears the infection. If you have prolonged UTIs or UTIs that come back frequently, you may need to be evaluated by a doctor for conditions like a prostate gland infection.
The following are frequently asked questions about UTIs.
How can you tell the difference between a UTI and bladder infection?
Bladder infections are a type of UTI that involves the lower urinary tract, including the bladder. A bladder infection can spread to other parts of your urinary tract or kidneys if left untreated. The symptoms of bladder infections and UTIs can be similar. See a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of a UTI, such as painful or frequent urination, pain in your central lower abdomen, or blood in your urine.
Is it possible to treat a UTI at home without the use of antibiotics?
Most UTIs require treatment with antibiotics. When certain groups of people, including people with a penis, have a UTI, the infection is usually considered to be complicated. Delaying treatment of complicated UTIs can lead to complications, such as a kidney infection or sepsis. If you are experiencing symptoms of a UTI, visit a doctor or healthcare professional and have a urine test performed.
UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract system. They are more common in females than in males. However, males who are older in age, have diabetes, are immunocompromised, or use a catheter may have a higher risk of developing a UTI.
If you are experiencing symptoms and think you have a UTI, visit a doctor for treatment.