Bladder Infections Happen in Men Too
Normal urine is sterile. It contains fluids, salts, and waste products, but not bacteria, viruses, or fungi. A bladder infection (also called cystitis) occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply.
Bladder infections are generally much less common in men than in women is because men have a longer urethras (the tube that drains urine from the bladder). This makes it more difficult for bacteria to reach the bladder and cause infection. Although urinary tract infections in men are not common, they can be very serious.
What Causes a Bladder Infections in Men?
The most common cause of bladder infections in men is poor emptying of the bladder. This is most often due to an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH). Small amounts of urine remain in the bladder, creating a perfect environment for bacteria to multiply and cause infection. Because BPH commonly develops as men age, bladder infections are more frequent in men over the age of 50. Additional causes of bladder infections in men include:
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Unprotected anal sex
- Compromised immune systems
- Poor emptying of the bladder due to other conditions, such as urethral stricture, neurogenic bladder, or prostate cancer
Some stones contain bacteria, leading to recurrent urine infections. Bladder stones may cause blockages and urine pooling, much in the way an enlarged prostate gland does.
Unprotected anal sex exposes the urethra to the bacteria that live in the bowels. These bacteria, although they cause no problems in the bowels, may lead to infections elsewhere in the body.
The insertion of an catheter, due to a recent illness or surgery, can also increase your risk of bladder infections.
Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Infections in Men
The symptoms of bladder infection vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. They are similar in both men and women and include:
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Passing only small amounts of urine
- Pain in the abdomen, pelvic area, or lower back
- Burning sensation during urination
- Increased need to get up at night to urinate
- Cloudy, bad-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Low-grade fever
If the infection is severe enough to inflame the bladder wall, it may also cause blood in the urine and leave it looking smoky or bloody with clots. Visible blood in the urine may also indicate more serious health issues and should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.
Treatment of Bladder Infections in Men
Like women, most bladder infections in men will be treated with oral antibiotics. Most urologists recommend that men take antibiotics for 7 days (women are often treated with shorter courses). Most men feel better within a few days of beginning the antibiotic. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics prescribed to make sure the infection is completely treated.
Things to Watch For
Certain conditions have similar symptoms to those of a bladder infection, but are actually more serious. If you have recurring infections or if no infection can be found, your doctor may look for one of the following conditions:
- Urethritis: This may be either inflammation or infection of the urethra. When infection is present, it is often bacterial and passed by sexual contact.
- Urinary stones: These can sometime develop in the bladder causing irritation and infection.
- Bladder tumors (cancerous or noncancerous growths): These can cause you to experience a frequent, urgent need to urinate and possibly cause blood in the urine.
- Prostatitis: This is an inflammation or infection of the prostate gland and should be treated aggressively. Acute bacterial prostatitis can be fatal if not treated immediately.
- Urethral stricture: This is a narrowing of the urethra caused by a scar. These can lead to difficulty emptying the bladder.
American Urological Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Urological Association
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Last reviewed March 2008 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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