When the topic of urinary tract infections (UTIs) arises, many immediately associate it with women. However, what often goes unnoticed is that men, too, can fall prey to this uncomfortable ailment.
This article sheds light on UTIs in both genders, emphasising that it’s a concern everyone should be aware of. We get insights from Dr Shirley Bang, Specialist Urologist, Advanced Urology Associates, specialising in functional and reconstruction urology, and female and general urology.
A urinary tract infection, commonly referred to as a UTI, is an infection that affects any part of the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Usually, UTIs are caused by bacteria, but they can also be due to fungi or viruses.
Why Women Are More Susceptible
It’s a biological fact: women are more prone to UTIs than men. The primary reason is anatomical. Women have a shorter urethra, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder.
Dr Bang stated, “As women have a shorter urethra and close proximity with the vagina and anus, common factors include contamination, lack of water intake, holding bladder, and post sexual intercourse.”
Furthermore, the urethral opening in women is closer to the anus, increasing the risk of bacteria transfer. Factors like sexual activity, menopause, and using specific birth control methods can also heighten the risk for women.
Men Aren’t Immune
While less common in men, UTIs still pose a significant health concern. The prevalence is lower in men primarily due to the longer length of the male urethra and its further distance from the anus, which makes it more challenging for bacteria to ascend to the bladder.
Dr Bang stated, “Men can get UTIs too! However, as men have a longer urethra, it is less likely for men to get UTI. The causes of UTI in men include prostate enlargement causing urinary obstructions, prostatitis or urinary stones.”
However, certain factors can increase a man’s risk:
- Enlarged Prostate: Can prevent the bladder from emptying fully.
- Kidney Stones or other obstructions of the urinary tract.
- Compromised Immune System: Diabetes or using medications that suppress the immune system can heighten risk.
- Catheter Use: Using a catheter can introduce bacteria into the bladder.
- Anal Intercourse: This can introduce bacteria into the urethra.
Symptoms to Watch For
Dr Bang advised to watch out for these symptoms
- Haematuria or blood in the urine
- Dysuria or painful urination
- Foul-smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
- Frequency and urgency to urinate
- Lower abdominal or flank pain
- Fever or chills (a sign that the infection may have reached the kidneys)
Treatment and Prevention
Fortunately, UTIs are treatable with antibiotics. However, it’s crucial to get a proper diagnosis because overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistant strains of bacteria.
Prevention strategies include:
- Drinking Plenty of Water: This helps dilute urine and ensures you urinate more frequently, allowing bacteria to be flushed from your system.
- Urinating After Sexual Activity: This can help clear away any bacteria that may have entered the urethra.
- Avoiding Irritating Feminine Products: Douches and powders can irritate the urethra.
- Wiping from Front to Back: Especially crucial for women to prevent bacteria from the anal area from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
Additionally, Dr Bang warned to watch out for recurrent UTIs, defined as documented positive urine cultures of three or more episodes in one year or two or more in six months. She also recommended the prevention of recurrent UTIs by finding any structural or functional causes for recurrent UTIs. This includes urinary stones, difficulty emptying the bladder, prostate, and neurogenic bladder.
Treatments to prevent recurrent UTIs include probiotics/cranberry/D mannose supplements, daily low-dose prevention antibiotics, one dose post sexual intercourse prevention antibiotics or oral vaccines.
UTIs are a common health concern that affects both genders, albeit with a higher prevalence in women. Regardless of gender, it’s essential to be informed about UTIs, their symptoms, and preventive measures. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent complications. Remember, maintaining good personal hygiene and regularly consulting with a healthcare professional are your best defences against UTIs.