UTIs in men and women: what’s normal and what’s not

Written by: Mr Sam Datta
Published:
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

While the symptoms of UTIs in men and women are very similar, the causes and incidence rates between genders are not.


UTIs are relatively common in women and usually aren't anything to worry about; but for men, this isn’t always the case. So, we spoke to Mr Sam Datta, a leading consultant urologist, to understand more about the differences in UTIs between men and women.

 

 

What is a UTI?

UTI stands for urinary tract infection and is an infection that happens anywhere in your urinary system. This consists of the bladder, ureters, kidneys and urethra. Most of the time, however, infections occur in the lower urinary tract - known as cystitis - which is made up of your bladder and urethra. The urethra is the tube the carries urine from the bladder and out of your body.

 

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

Symptoms of UTIs in men and women are very similar. Depending on where the UTI is located, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

 

  • Going to the toilet more often
  • Feeling as though you need to pee all the time
  • Pain and/or burning when you pee
  • Passing blood when you pee
  • Pain below your stomach
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Feeling tired and unwell

 

Sometimes men don’t experience any symptoms.

 

Women

In women, UTIs are quite common. Around one in three women will get a UTI at some point in their life. It tends to happen when they are younger, or when they are older or post-menopausal.

 

UTIs usually happen when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and start multiplying in the bladder or kidney. In comparison to men, women have much shorter urethras, which means bacteria are much more likely to reach the kidney or bladder and cause an infection.

 

If you get two or three infections a year, you should consider seeing a urologist to get checked out.

 

What causes UTIs in women?

It’s not always obvious how bacteria manage to enter the bladder. There are many causes and factors that put you at an increased risk of UTIs:

 

  • If your bladder doesn’t empty properly, bacteria can remain inside and start to multiply. This can be caused by a blockage in your urinary systems, such as a bladder or kidney stones.
  • Post-menopausal problems can cause UTIs. The lining of the urethra can shrink due to the lack of oestrogen and the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina can change. This makes your urethra more vulnerable to infections.
  • Sex can lead to a UTI. The anus and vagina are very close, and bacteria from your anus can reach the urethral opening to the bladder. Also, having a new sexual partner can increase your risk.

 

How are UTIs diagnosed?

To diagnose a UTI, a doctor will ask you about your symptoms. You will likely need to provide a urine sample which will then be tested and possibly undergoing a cystoscopy. A cystoscopy involves passing a thin telescope into the bladder via the urethra to examine it.

 

Men

UTIs in men are not common, unlike in women. As a man’s urethra is much longer than a woman’s, it is much more difficult for bacteria to reach the bladder. If a man gets a UTI it can indicate there is an additional underlying problem.

 

What causes UTIs in men?

When some men get older, their prostate grows larger; a condition known as benign prostatic enlargement. This enlarged prostate can push on the bladder and make it harder for urine to flow out freely. If urine doesn’t empty completely, it can cause bacteria to build up and an infection can occur.

 

Other less common factors that increase your risk of UTIs include:

 

 

How are UTIs diagnosed?

Investigations in men are usually directed towards excluding the cause of the UTI. This may involve the use of an ultrasound scan, cystoscopy (telescope) and a flow rate test (a test to measure your urinary flow rate). Sometimes, a swab test is done on men to check for other conditions.

 

How can UTIs be prevented?

There are certain steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting a UTI:

 

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Drink cranberry juice
  • Empty your bladder before and after sexual intercourse
  • Wear loose underwear
  • Don’t hold your pee for long periods

 

How are UTIs treated?

The treatment of a UTI depends on the cause, however, in most cases, your doctor will prescribe you a course of antibiotics which will be enough to treat it.

 

If you have any of the symptoms described in this article and would like to see a specialist, visit Dr Sam Datta’s Top Doctors profile and book a consultation to see him.

By Mr Sam Datta
Urology

Mr Soumendra Datta is a highly skilled and dedicated consultant urologist based in Colchester and Chelmsford who specialises in lower urinary tract dysfunction and kidney stones. He is a leading expert in all aspects of the bladder, kidneys and urological conditions which affect men’s genitalia and prostate, and has particular expertise in laser surgery for prostate enlargement. When it comes to urinary stone disease, Mr Datta is highly trained and experienced in treating this condition with minimally invasive surgery and working towards the prevention of stones.

Within his range of specialist treatments, Mr Datta is skilled in both medical and surgical management plans for his patients’ condition, providing top-quality care for each and every one. He also provides paediatric urology services and care for women’s urological conditions.

Mr Datta received his first medical qualification in 1997, at the renowned University College London (UCL), where he graduated with an intercalated degree in neuroscience and a distinction in medicine and surgery. He undertook his basic training on the Hammersmith surgical rotation before going on to accomplish higher surgical training on the Imperial urology rotation. Mr Datta went on to become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, graduating in 2012 as an urological surgeon with a masters and doctoral theses. Mr Datta is currently a consultant urological surgeon at Springfield Hospital, Ramsay Health Care and East Suffolk and North Essex NHS, where he is also the clinical director for urological and vascular surgery.

Besides his practice, Mr Datta devotes his time to research, including research into urinary tract stones and their prevention. He also contributes to the field of urology through the teaching and training of future urological specialists and is qualified in medical education. Mr Datta pursues this profession today as the undergraduate tutor for urology at Colchester Hospital and holding senior lecturer posts at Anglia Ruskin University and Queen Mary University of London,

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