Roughly one in five women will develop a urinary tract infection, or UTI, at some point in her life. Conversely, approximately only four percent of men will be diagnosed with a UTI at any point in their lives. With the number of men contracting UTIs being so low, it may be easy to understand why so many people regard UTIs as being a problem that only affects women.
Women are, indeed, much more susceptible to UTIs as a basic fact of their anatomy. The opening of a woman’s urethra is little more than an opening in the skin in one of the warmest areas of the human body. This exposes the urethra to heat, sweat, and dampness, all of which are known bacteria breeding grounds. There is a very small amount of space between the anus and the urethra, making it quite easy for fecal bacteria to travel to the urethra. Men, however, simply by virtue of a penis, have exponentially larger distance from the anus to the urethra. The opening of a man’s urethra is not exposed to nearly as much sweat as a woman’s.
Despite the anatomical advantage, a man’s risk of developing a UTI increases with age, particularly for men over 50. Certain medical conditions may increase one’s risk, including diabetes, kidney stones, prostate enlargement, insertion of catheters, and any condition that may weaken the immune system. Men affected by a UTI may experience the following symptoms:
Frequent urge to urinate
Being able to pass only small amounts of urine at a time
Cloudy, discolored, or foul-smelling urine
Pain in the abdomen or lower back
Pain or burning during urination
Discharge from the penis
There are steps a man can take that may reduce a man’s risk of developing a UTI. Thorough washing of the penis is important for reducing the amount of bacteria lingering around the opening of the urethra, particularly for uncircumcised men. Keeping the genital area clean before and after sexual contact may reduce the risk of developing a UTI for a man and his partner. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, may help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
UTIs are usually bacterial in nature, so they are most commonly treated with antibiotics. Your doctor can determine the exact cause of your UTI and treat it accordingly. It is important to treat UTIs as early as possible to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys.