UTI in Men: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

By Chesney Fowler, MD
Medically reviewed
March 10, 2021

Though urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in women, they can also occur in men. 

In this article, I’ll describe the two main types of UTIs in men as well as their symptoms and potential causes. I’ll also review how doctors diagnose and treat UTIs in men. Finally, I’ll address who is most at risk for getting a UTI, how it can affect older adults and children differently, and which behaviors may help prevent a UTI. 

In most cases, UTIs are easy to treat, but they do not go away on their own. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of a UTI will help you determine when it’s important to see a healthcare professional for treatment.

What Is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, which can include the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. The infection is most commonly caused by the bacterium escherichia coli (E. coli), which is naturally present in the body.

The most common symptom of UTIs in men is urinary frequency, or experiencing a frequent urge to urinate. Some men may also experience a painful or burning sensation while urinating. Additional symptoms can also present depending on where your infection is located, and some men may experience no symptoms at all.

Generally, doctors refer to two types of UTIs:

  • Upper tract: An upper tract infection refers to a UTI that is found in the ureters or has spread to the kidneys. A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) can occur when bacteria have traveled upward in the urinary tract from the bladder to the kidney or because bacteria carried in the bloodstream have collected in the kidney. Symptoms of an upper tract UTI or kidney infection can include pain in the upper back or side, high fever, shaking and chills, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Lower tract: A lower tract infection refers to a UTI that is found or has spread to the bladder (also called cystitis or a bladder infection), prostate (prostatitis), or urethra (urethritis). Common causes of lower tract UTIs are intestinal bacteria, which can spread from the skin to the urethra and then to the bladder, and bacteria or microorganisms transmitted through sexual contact. Symptoms of a lower tract UTI can include pelvic pressure, pain or pressure in the lower abdomen, frequent and painful urination, blood in urine, and discharge.

Though it’s not always possible for a doctor to distinguish between a lower or upper tract infection, it can be helpful when determining the length of antibiotic treatment.

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How Do You Diagnose and Treat a UTI?

To diagnose a UTI, your doctor may ask for a sample of your urine. They’ll use this for a urine culture to determine the levels of germs and bacteria in your urine. In rare cases, your doctor may also do an X-ray or ultrasound to get a more comprehensive look at your urinary tract.

If a UTI is confirmed, depending on the location and severity of the infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics

For an uncomplicated lower tract infection, your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to be taken over five to seven days. 

If you have an upper tract infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for three weeks or longer. 

In the rare case of a severe infection, your doctor may recommend hospital treatment and a course of intravenous antibiotics.

Who Is at Higher Risk for UTIs?

Several demographics are at a higher risk of getting a UTI:

  • Older men: UTIs are common in older men because of the increased likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In men with BPH, the prostate gland enlarges and wraps around the bladder neck, making it more difficult for urine to flow freely. When this happens, bacteria that are normally flushed out with urine can build up in the bladder, leading to an infection. Older men are also more likely to experience fecal incontinence, which can significantly increase the likelihood of developing a UTI. Long-term use of urinary catheters can also increase the risk of developing a UTI, since using a catheter can introduce bacteria into the bladder.
  • Men who have anal intercourse: Anal intercourse can expose the urethra to more bacteria, particularly bacteria of the rectum, which increases the risk of developing a UTI.
  • Uncircumcised, younger men: Studies suggest that lack of circumcision increases the risk of UTI in young men and boys.

Top Ways to Prevent a UTI

Several factors can encourage bacteria to grow and spread within the urinary tract. Though UTIs aren’t always preventable, some behaviors may  help protect against bacterial spread and infection in both men and women:

  • Practice safe sex: Condom use can help prevent bacterial infections that are transmitted through sexual contact.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day will help encourage urination, which works to flush out bacteria from your urinary tract. If it’s hot out or if you’ve been exercising, be sure to drink even more water.
  • Don’t “hold it in”: Urinate when you feel the urge. Holding it in can lead to a collection of bacteria in the bladder or urinary tract.
  • Use good hygiene: Wipe from front to back after bowel movements, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

UTI Prevention in Men

Most of the behaviors that can help prevent UTIs in women can also help prevent UTIs in men. Additionally, treating prostate problems, including BPH, can help men improve urine flow and reduce the risk of UTI. 

UTI Prevention in Older Adults

In addition to treating prostate problems, eliminating caffeine and alcohol may help older men with BPH improve urine flow and prevent the buildup of urine in the bladder, which can increase the likelihood of an infection.

UTI Prevention in Children 

Circumcision in infancy can significantly reduce the likelihood of UTI in boys. One study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics reported an 11-fold increase in UTI rate among uncircumcised boys compared to circumcised boys.

Can You Prevent a UTI When You Feel It Coming On? 

If you feel symptoms of a UTI,  infection is likely already present. So you should consult with your doctor to determine the right course of treatment. Home remedies, such as drinking cranberry juice and taking probiotics, have not been scientifically proven to help prevent or treat a UTI.

When to See a Doctor 

If you experience any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, like frequent or painful urination, reach out to your doctor or urologist. Do so immediately if you experience any symptoms of a bladder or kidney infection, such as fever, vomiting, or back pain.

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How K Health Can Help 

Did you know you can get quick and affordable UTI treatment with K Health? Begin a visit for just $23 to text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s board-certified, U.S.-based doctors can provide a treatment plan and prescription to resolve your symptoms as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do men get a UTI?
Several factors can encourage bacterial growth and spread in the male urinary tract. This includes infrequent urination, poor toilet hygiene, bacteria transmitted through sexual contact, prostate problems, and diabetes.
Can you prevent UTI in men?
A few behaviors may reduce the likelihood of getting a UTI: Stay hydrated, practice safe sex, don’t hold in your urine, and wipe front to back after bowel movements.
Will a male UTI clear up on its own?
No, a UTI will generally not clear up on its own. Some remedies may help mitigate your symptoms and reintroduce healthy bacteria back into your body, but in most cases, a course of antibiotics is required to clear the infection.
What is the treatment for UTI in men?
Doctors can treat UTI in men with a variety of antibiotics. The length of treatment depends on the location of your infection and the results of your urine sample. For uncomplicated lower tract infections, most treatment courses last five to seven days. If your infection is in the upper urinary tract, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics to be taken over three weeks or longer. In rare but severe cases, treatment may include hospitalization and an intravenous course of antibiotics.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Chesney Fowler, MD

Dr. Fowler is an emergency medicine physician and received her MD from George Washington University. She completed her residency in emergency medicine at Christiana Care Health System. In addition to her work at K Health, Dr. Fowler is a practicing emergency medicine physician in Washington, DC.