Your urinary tract includes the parts of your body that make urine and carry it out of your body.
For men, these parts include your kidneys and bladder, as well as your ureters and urethra. Ureters are the twin tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder. Your urethra is the single tube that carries urine from your bladder past your prostate and to the tip of your penis.
If unhealthy bacteria build up anywhere in your urinary tract, this can cause an infection. And while urinary tract infections (UTIs) are much more common in women, men can also get them.
The Two Types of Urinary Tract Infection
Doctors usually refer to UTIs as either “upper tract” or “lower tract.” An upper-tract infection is one that happens in the ureters or kidneys. A lower-tract infection is one that happens in the bladder, prostate, or urethra.
Depending on the location of your UTI, you may have one or more of these symptoms:
- Frequent bathroom trips
- Feeling like you have to pee all the time
- Pain, burning, or discomfort while peeing or just after
- Pain or tenderness below your stomach
- Wetting the bed
- Cloudy or smelly urine
- Blood in your urine
- Pain in the sides or upper back
Some men don’t have any symptoms at all.
Diagnosing a UTI
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms. They will also ask about your sexual history because sex can raise your risk for a UTI.
Urine tests can confirm whether you have a UTI. If your doctor thinks the problem might be related to your prostate, you may get a prostate exam. Rarely, you may also need to get an X-ray or ultrasound so your doctor can get a better look at your urinary tract.
Treatment for a UTI
Doctors usually treat UTIs with antibiotics you take by mouth. Your doctor will probably choose an antibiotic based on the likely source (such as your bladder) and the bacteria that most commonly cause your UTI. You’ll probably start taking those antibiotics before you get the results of your urine test. (Your doctor may change the prescription if the test shows that the bacteria causing your UTI aren’t targeted by your first antibiotic.)
If you have a lower urinary tract infection, you’ll probably only need antibiotics for a week or less. If you have an upper-tract 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.
UTI Causes and Risk Factors
The most common cause of a UTI in the urethra is a sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two STDs that can cause a UTI. STDs are also the most common cause of UTIs in younger men.
Prostate problems can also cause UTIs. An enlarged prostate (BPH) is common in older men and can block the flow of urine. This can increase the odds that bacteria will build up and cause a UTI.
Prostatitis, which is an infection of the prostate, shares many of the same symptoms as UTIs.
Diabetes and other medical issues that affect your immune system can also make you more likely to get a UTI.
If untreated, a lower urinary tract infection can spread up to your kidneys. Doctors can usually treat kidney infections. In rare cases, an untreated kidney infection can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. A kidney infection can be serious, because it could cause sepsis (an infection in the bloodstream). If that happens and you feel very sick, you may need to be treated in a hospital.
Preventing a UTI
You can’t prevent all UTIs, but you can help make them less likely. Wearing a condom during sex can protect you from STDs, which can lower your risk for a UTI. Treating prostate problems can also lower your risks.