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Urinary Tract Infection: It’s Not Just Younger Men

February 02, 2022

It’s always newsworthy when a former president is hospitalized, but what might have been the most surprising element of former President Clinton’s hospital stay in November was the cause: urinary tract infection (UTI).

UTIs are more commonly attributed to women, but an expert with the Hartford HealthCare Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute said men over age 50 are increasingly prone to suffering from a bacterial infection that can get serious very quickly.

“UTIs are generally uncommon in young men, but we see an increase in risk as men age, for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Richard Kershen, Co-Director of Pelvic Health with Tallwood.

The most common cause is an enlarged prostate gland in older men. When the gland enlarges, it may block the outflow of urine from the urethra (the tube draining urine from the bladder to the outside of the body), to the point where a man may not completely empty his bladder when he urinates. Urine that lingers in the bladder may become a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause infection.

Other potential causes of urinary tract infections in men include:

  • Prostatitis, which is an infection in the prostate gland.
  • Kidney stones.
  • Scar tissue or strictures which block the urethra.
  • Diabetes, which compromises the immune system and affects bladder function.

Dr. Kershen said men who are uncircumcised or need to catheterize themselves as a result of a neurological condition that can affect bladder function such as a spinal cord injury are at even higher risk of introducing bacteria to their system and getting a UTI.

“Bacteria which can colonize the area may then more easily enter the urethra, causing infection,” he said.

Symptoms and signs of a UTI in men are similar to those in women and can include:

  • A burning sensation when urinating.
  • Frequent need to urinate.
  • Feeling like you cannot empty the bladder when urinating.
  • Pain in the pubic and lower pelvic area.
  • Cloudy or smelly urine.

“If you have these symptoms, the next step is to call your primary care doctor or go to an urgent care center for a urinalysis and culture,” Dr. Kershen said. “Symptoms like fever, chills or pain in the flank or testicle area require urgent attention.”

Any man who has recurrent UTIs or complicated infections requiring hospitalization might want to consult with a urologist, who can perform specialized tests to determine the underlying cause and recommend the best action.