UTIs in men

Karolina Baker, Alphabiolabs

By Karolina Baker, Health Testing Specialist at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 08/03/2023

In this article, we discuss how urinary tract infections (UTIs) can affect men and people with male genitalia, the different types of UTIs, and how to reduce the risk of getting a UTI.
Table of contents
  • What is a urinary tract infection?
  • Can men get UTIs?
  • How common are UTIs in men?
  • What are the different types of UTIs?
  • What are the symptoms of a UTI in men? What are the signs of a UTI in men?
  • Can UTIs be mistaken for other diseases or infections?
  • What causes UTIs in men?
  • What are the complications of UTIs for men?
  • How do UTIs get diagnosed?
  • How are UTIs treated in men?
  • Can UTIs be treated at home?
  • Can you prevent a UTI?
  • Can you get tested for a UTI?

What is a urinary tract infection?  

As the name suggests, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects the urinary tract including your bladder, urethra, and kidneys, and is caused by bacteria entering the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body).

Although UTIs are common, women are more prone to contracting UTIs than men. This is because women have shorter urethras, making it easier for bacteria to travel into the urinary tract and cause an infection in the urethra, bladder, or kidneys.

There are different types of UTIs that can infect the urethra, bladder, and kidneys. Some of these infections can go away on their own, while others may require treatment.

If you think you might have a UTI, your pharmacy, GP or local sexual health clinic will be able to provide advice and guidance on next steps.

Can men get UTIs?

Although urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common among women and people with female genitalia, men and people with male genitalia can still get them.

UTIs are not contagious, which means you cannot catch a UTI from someone else. However, it is possible for UTI-causing bacteria to spread from one person to another during sex.

Moreover, some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and mycoplasma genitalium can cause UTIs.

For this reason, keeping your sexual health in check with regular STI tests can help reduce the risk of UTIs.

How common are UTIs in men?

While it is possible for men to get UTIs, they tend to be much less common among men than they are among women.

However, there are several risk factors that can make you more susceptible to getting UTIs if you are male, including your age and overall health.

You may be more susceptible to UTIs if:

  • You are over the age of 65 – older males can be more prone to UTIs for a variety of reasons. For example, males with enlarged prostates might find it more difficult to empty their bladder completely, while a weaker urine stream can also put you at risk
  • You have diabetes, a weak immune system or use a catheter
  • You have a condition that obstructs the flow of urine
  • You have had surgery on your urinary tract
  • You participate in anal sex. This is because coli, a UTI-causing bacteria, can be passed from the anus to the opening of the penis

What are the different types of UTIs?

UTIs can affect different parts of the urinary tract, depending on where the infection is located:

Infections of the urethra

Usually caused by bacteria which has spread from the anus to the urethra. These types of UTIs can also be caused by certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and mycoplasma genitalium.

UTIs affecting the urethra can cause urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) resulting in symptoms such as pain when urinating and the frequent urge to urinate.

Infections of the bladder

Usually caused by bacteria found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that spreads from faeces (poo) to the urethra and reaches the bladder. Bladder infections can also be triggered by sexual intercourse and are more commonly seen among women.

UTIs affecting the bladder can cause cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), which occurs when bacteria move up from the urethra and into the bladder resulting in swelling. This can cause symptoms including pain in the lower stomach, pain when urinating and dark, cloudy urine.

Infection of the kidneys

Kidney infections usually occur when bacteria travel to your bladder (causing cystitis), and then up to your kidneys.

However, kidney infections can also develop without a prior bladder infection. They can also be caused by having diabetes, being immunocompromised or from blockages in the urinary tract, such as kidney stones.

Pyelonephritis is another name for a kidney infection. It happens when an infection spreads up the urinary tract but can also be caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract, which causes bacteria to build up as urine is not being flushed away properly.

Kidney infections can cause more serious symptoms including blood in your urine, fever and pain in your lower back and stomach. These infections can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, so it is important to visit your GP if you suspect you have a kidney infection.

What are the symptoms of a UTI in men? What are the signs of a UTI in men?

Men or people with male genitalia that develop a UTI may not experience any symptoms. However, some common symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • A need to urinate more often
  • Stomach or back pain, just under the ribs
  • Urine that is dark, bloody or has a strong smell

Symptoms of kidney infections/UTIs affecting the kidneys, include:

  • Chills or fever
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain in the back
  • Nausea/vomiting

If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing you pain or discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we recommend visiting your GP or local sexual health clinic for advice, testing and treatment as soon as possible.

Can UTIs be mistaken for other diseases or infections?

Because UTIs share symptoms in common with other conditions, it is often easy for a UTI to be mistaken for a sexually transmitted infection (STI): especially in men, among whom UTIs are less common.

For this reason, it is important not to jump to any conclusions if you begin to experience symptoms that could indicate a UTI.

If you do have symptoms, it is important that you speak to your GP as soon as possible, who will be able to provide guidance on testing and diagnosis.

It can also be a good idea to order an at-home STI test, to help you rule out or confirm any infections that share symptoms with UTIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mycoplasma genitalium, and trichomoniasis.

The correct diagnosis can help you seek the appropriate treatment more quickly, prevent the spread of infections to other people, and prevent your symptoms (if you have them) from getting any worse.

What causes UTIs in men?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria entering the urethra: the tube that carries urine out of the body.

The most common UTI-causing bacteria is E-coli, a bacteria found in faeces (poo). For this reason, any sexual activity involving the anus can increase the risk of developing a UTI if the bacteria are able to enter the urethra/urinary tract.

Other factors that have been known to increase the risk of UTIs in men and people with male genitalia include:

  • Having an enlarged prostate gland
  • Not being able to empty your bladder completely (retaining urine)
  • Using a catheter
  • Diabetes
  • A weak immune system

What are the complications of UTIs for men?

The complications of UTIs in men can vary greatly depending on several factors including age, general health, and how long the person has been infected.

Some UTIs that are left untreated can become more severe, spreading further up the urinary tract, and causing symptoms to worsen.

For example, kidney infections can occur when bacteria travel to the bladder (causing cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder), and then to the kidneys.

Kidney infections can cause more serious symptoms including blood in your urine, and fever and pain in your lower back and stomach. These infections can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, so it is important to visit your GP if you suspect you have a kidney infection.

How do UTIs get diagnosed?

If you suspect you might have a UTI, it is recommended that you speak to your GP, pharmacy, or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible who will be able to provide guidance on getting a diagnosis.

How are UTIs treated in men?

There are different types of UTIs that can infect the urethra, bladder, and kidneys. Some of these infections can go away on their own, while others may require treatment.

If you think you might have a UTI, your pharmacy, GP or local sexual health clinic will be able to provide guidance on the appropriate treatment, depending on the type of infection you have.

Can UTIs be treated at home?

It is not advisable to try treating a confirmed or suspected UTI yourself at home without consulting your GP, pharmacy, or local sexual health clinic for guidance.

Depending on the type of infection you have and the severity of your symptoms, you may be advised to wait and see if your symptoms clear up on their own. This is because some UTIs can clear up without treatment.

However, it is recommended that you speak to your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms that are causing you pain and discomfort.

Can you prevent a UTI?

Although urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of infection.

Some healthcare providers recommend the following:

  • Urinating before and after sex: this helps to flush out bacteria that may have made its way into the urethra
  • Going to the toilet as soon as possible when you have the urge to urinate
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Wiping front to back after going to the toilet. This can reduce the risk of bacteria spreading from the anus to the urethra
  • Using a condom for any sexual activity that could spread bacteria from the anus to the urethra
  • Washing hands before sexual touching and after any contact with the anus. This can help prevent the spread of bacteria to the urethra

Speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic regarding risk-prevention and UTIs.

Can you get tested for a UTI?

Regular testing can help you keep your sexual health in check and ensure any infections – including UTIs –are detected early, so that you can seek the correct treatment.

The symptoms of STIs and UTIs can be similar, so regular testing can help identify the cause of these symptoms and the appropriate next steps.

AlphaBiolabs offers a range of home STI tests for this purpose, including our 7-panel STI test which tests for some of the most common pathogens in the UK, including the UTIs ureaplasma parvum and ureaplasma urealyticum.

For this test, you will need to provide either a urine sample (males) or a vaginal swab sample (females). Your test kit will contain everything you need to collect your samples and return them to our UK laboratory for analysis.

Important: if you are experiencing symptoms that are causing severe pain and discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we advise you to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.

You must be at least 16 years of age to purchase a home STI test kit from AlphaBiolabs.

Order an STI test

At-home STI testing you can trust, from just £29.

Karolina Baker

Karolina Baker

Health Testing Specialist at AlphaBiolabs

Karolina joined AlphaBiolabs in 2021, and holds the role of Health Testing Specialist.

As well as overseeing a range of health tests, Karolina plays an active role in the research and development of the company’s latest health test offerings.

Before joining AlphaBiolabs, Karolina worked as an Associate Practitioner at Mid-Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and as a research assistant at the Turner Laboratory, within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester.

Karolina’s main scientific interests include clinical genomics and genetic diagnostics. Her qualifications include a BSc in Molecular Biology and an MSc in Genomic Medicine.

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