What does a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) mean?
Whilst UTIs are typically more commonly found in women, men can be affected too.
Some bacteria in your urinary tract can be good. However, when too much bacteria accumulates there, a UTI can occur.
In men, UTIs can develop in the urethra (the tube that connects the tip of the penis to the bladder – It normally carries urine except during sexual intercourse), or in the bladder, prostate, or kidney.
As the name suggests, a UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Most involve the lower urinary tract – bladder and urethra, however upper urinary tract infections, including the kidneys and ureters, are possible too.
Causes of UTI
The most common cause of a UTI in the urethra is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) – Some STDs that can cause a UTI is chlamydia and gonorrhea.
The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a common cause of UTIs. It is naturally found in our bodies – It helps to break down and digest the food that we eat and is found in the intestines. However, Ecoli can be bad when it gets into the urinary tract. How does it get there? Through the urethra.
UTIs are usually found more in women than in men because their urethra is shorter. This means the bacteria need to travel a shorter distance to reach their bladder. Men less frequently catch UTIs from having heterosexual sex (male with female), because the infection is typically from bacteria that is already present in the man’s urinary tract.
Additionally, prostate problems can cause UTIs. An enlarged prostate is common in older men and can block the flow of urine, increasing the chances that bacteria will build up and cause an infection.
Here is a list of UTI risk factors
- Urinary tract abnormalities – could be congenital
- Blockages in the urinary tract (Having kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can increase the risk of UTIs)
- A suppressed immune system. (Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes can increase the risk of UTIs.
- A recent urinary procedure. Any procedure or urinary tract exam which involves medical instruments can increase your risk of developing a UTI
- Not moving for long periods
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Being uncircumcised
- Not being able to control when you defecate (fecal incontinence)
- Engaging in anal intercourse exposes the urethra to more bacteria
Signs and Symptoms of a UTI
They don’t always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do may include:
- Feeling an urgent and persistent need to urinate
- Feeling a burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Cloudy urine
- Urine that is red, pink, or coca-cola coloured
- Urine that has a strong smell
- Pain or tenderness below the stomach area
- Wetting the bed
UTIs can happen in different parts of your urinary tract. Each type of UTI can have more specific signs and symptoms.
Which part of Urinary Tract is infected
Signs and Symptoms
Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis)
● Back/Side pain
● High fever
● Feeling very cold (Chills) or shaking
● Nausea and/or vomiting
● Pressure in the pelvic area
● Lower abdomen discomfort
● Frequent and painful urination
● Blood in urine – Urine appears red, pink or coke-coloured
● Discharge (fluid from the end of the penis)
● Burning during urination
Diagnosis and Tests
To diagnose a UTI, your doctor will examine you and ask if you have any symptoms, including any past history of UTIs. You may need to provide a urine sample so that it can be discovered if pus and bacteria are present. When testing the urine, your doctor will look out for a higher number of white blood cells – Which can indicate an infection.
Your doctor may also carry out a urine culture test, and send the sample to a laboratory to check for the type of bacteria/fungus causing the infection.
If an enlarged prostate gland is suspected, the doctor may conduct a digital rectal exam. They will use a gloved finger to feel your prostate gland through the wall of your rectum (anus)
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
To perform a DRE, your doctor will gently insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your anus. This helps them to feel for any abnormalities. For instance, an enlarged prostate feels like a bulge behind the rectum wall.
You may feel pain or the urge to urinate during the exam, as firm pressure is being applied to the prostate. The doctor may press down on your lower abdomen during the exam too.
Your doctor will ask you to put on a hospital gown. During the exam, you can choose to
- lie on your side
- squat on the exam table
- bend over the table
- lie on the table with your feet raised in stirrups
If untreated, a lower urinary tract infection (the type that is more common, and usually less severe) can spread upwards to your kidneys, causing a kidney infection. A UTI may also lead to the narrowing of the urethra, which can increase the risk of inflammation or infection in the future.
Doctors usually treat UTIs with oral antibiotics.
Your doctor will choose an antibiotic based on the likely source (such as your bladder) and the bacteria that is likely to cause your UTI.
In fact, you’ll probably start taking those antibiotics before you get the results of your urine test.
If you have a lower urinary tract infection (bladder or urethra infection), you’ll probably only need antibiotics for one week or less. However, if you have an upper-tract infection (kidney or ureter infection) you may need to take antibiotics for up to 2 weeks. In rare and severe cases, you may need to take antibiotics by IV in a hospital.
Depending on the type of antibiotic prescribed,, you will take the pills either once or twice a day for five to seven or more days. It is important to finish all the antibiotics prescribed, even if you’re feeling better halfway through the medication course. Stopping the antibiotics can kill off the weak bacteria, but leaving the stronger and more resistant bacteria behind.
- It’s also important to drink enough fluids to flush the bacteria out.
- You can try drinking cranberry juice too – Lab experiments with mice showed that cranberry juice may lower bacteria count in the bladder, but there is no strong evidence that it is truly effective.
Prevention and Follow Up
To prevent UTIs, the most important thing is to reduce the chance of bacteria accumulating in your urinary tract. Some things you can do to prevent a UTI are:
- Urinate when you need to – Don’t hold it in.
- Drink enough fluids.
- Wipe from front to back when you use the toilet
- Keep your genital area clean and dry.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem affecting both men and women, but they occur more frequently in women. In men, UTIs can develop in the urethra (the tube that connects the tip of the penis to the bladder – It normally carries urine except during sexual intercourse), or in the bladder, prostate or kidney.
If you think you might have a UTI, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible so that you can treat the infection before it spreads. Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful!
Be sure to share this with any friends who might be experiencing urinary issues.