Although it is fairly common for women to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs), they are relatively uncommon in men, and they are generally considered to be more serious. Men who experience penis pain and burning when urinating, especially when accompanied by symptoms such as fever, chills, backache and/or abdominal pain, should visit their doctors for testing and treatment. Understanding the causes and risk factors, as well as taking the proper approach to penis care, can help men avoid complications from urinary tract infections.

What causes urinary tract infections in men?

Urinary tract infections may develop when bacteria are introduced into the urinary tract, which includes the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys. Most urinary tract infections occur in the lower tract, which includes the urethra and bladder.

Symptoms of an infection may include:

- Penis pain during urination;

- Burning during urination;

- Frequent need to urinate;

- The feeling of a need to urinate even after the bladder has just been emptied;

- Abdominal pain or discomfort;

- Back pain.

In men, a urinary tract infection can lead to complications, so it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A UTI can usually be detected through a urine test in a doctor’s office, and this generally only takes a few minutes.

Risk factors for male UTI

There are various issues that may increase a man’s risk for developing urinary tract infections, including the following:

- Inability to control urination, or catheterization. Men who rely on a catheter to expel urine have a much greater risk of introducing bacteria into the urethra.

- Prior surgery. Men who have had surgery for prostate or urinary issues in the past are more likely to develop UTIs.

- Blockages in the urinary tract. Kidney stones and bladder stones create blockages in the urinary tract and increase the risk of infection.

- Being uncircumcised. Men with an intact foreskin have a greater risk for UTIs, as well as other types of infections related to the penis.

- Having unprotected sex. Unprotected sex with a partner who has an infection, and especially anal sex, can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, leading to infection.

Treating a urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections are generally treated with a round of oral antibiotics. Men who are affected should take all the medication prescribed according to the dosing schedule, even if they start to feel better before all the medicine is gone. Stopping the treatment before it is finished can allow some bacteria to survive, and these may develop a resistance to antibiotic treatment, creating a risk for further infections that are more difficult to treat.

In addition to antibiotics, doctors may recommend a urinary tract medication that will relieve the penis pain and burning associated with the infection. These medications are available over the counter or through prescription; they tend to turn the urine dark yellow or orange.

Drinking plenty of water to help flush out the urinary tract and getting extra rest are also recommended. Caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods should be avoided, as these can irritate the urethra and cause further discomfort.

Preventive measures

Urinary tract infections may occur in spite of a man’s best efforts, but following these guidelines can decrease the risks:

1) Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day;

2) Drink cranberry juice or pineapple juice - the acid content in these may create a hostile environment for bacteria in the urinary tract;

3) Use protection during sex - especially anal sex;

4) Urinate immediately after sex;

5) Shower daily - men who are uncircumcised should pay extra attention to keeping the area under the foreskin clean;

6) Use hypoallergenic cleansers and detergents - standard soaps and laundry detergents can be irritating to the delicate penile skin, including the urethral opening, increasing the chances of infection;

7) Use a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil). Keeping the penile skin moisturized and nourished may prevent irritation that can increase the risk of infection. A crème should not be rubbed into the urethral opening.