UTIs Only for Women?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) occur when bacteria or, less commonly, viruses or fungi enter the urinary tract. Most exit the body in the urine, but if any remain, they can be a source of infection.

Kidneys, ureters, the bladder, and urethra are all part of the urinary tract.  A UTI can happen at any point along this path, though it is most common in the lower tract – the bladder and urethra that respectively hold and eliminate urine from the body.  This infection is known as cystitis.

Generally, when one hears about UTIs, it has to do with women.  But UTIs are not only for women.  Basically, if you have a urinary tract (which you do!) you too can get a UTI.

UTIs in Women

Women are always at high risk of getting a UTI, and for many women the condition becomes chronic.  In fact, about half of all women will get a UTI in their lifetime, with one in five contracting a second one.

One reason why women are at greater risk is because their urethra and anus are very close together.  Believe it or not, simple things like wiping front to back after going to the bathroom can keep bacteria and other havoc-starters at bay. 

Genetics can also play a role:  for example, some women may have structural abnormalities in their urinary tract. Menopause causes changes in the protective vaginal flora, as does dehydration.

Sexually active women must stay vigilant with regard to UTIs, and the risk rises with the frequency of sexual activity:  bacteria flourish with improper use of diaphragms; spermicidal products can trigger genital inflammation; and douching, deodorants and feminine hygiene products may invite invasion by bacteria.

Diabetes compromises the immune system as well and may make the patient vulnerable to UTIs.  Other conditions posing risk include pregnancy, kidney stones, spinal injuries, stroke and multiple sclerosis.

UTIs in Men

Although rare, the risk of UTIs in males increases with age.  UTIs are most common in men over 50 years.

In men, a UTI is often related to an underlying medical condition, such as an enlarged prostate or kidney stones that obstruct urine flow and allow bacteria to fester in the bladder.  Diabetes and other health conditions may further weaken the immune system.  A bladder catheter insertion can pave the way for infectious bacteria.  An uncircumcised penis may harbor harmful bacteria under the foreskin.

Symptoms of UTI in men are generally the same. But one symptom is specific - fluid seepage from the penis.  This would need an immediate medical diagnosis.

UTIs in Children

By the time they are 11 years, about 1% of boys and 3% of girls will have developed a UTI.  The most common symptom is a fever.

If a child does not urinate often, later their muscles may not relax enough to empty their bladder and flush away bacteria in the urine.  Some children may have a structural abnormality that impedes urine flow or lets it reverse from the bladder to the kidneys.  This will cause chronic kidney infections and damage.

Potty training can also lead to UTIs, especially in girls but also in uncircumcised boys.  Again, wiping from back to front after urinating or having a bowel movement, instead of the opposite, is a common cause, and dirty diapers or not cleaning a child properly while diapering can also raise the risk of UTIs.

Symptoms among children are the same as in adults.

UTIs in Infants

Infants cannot verbalize their discomfort.  The only way is to know if they have a UTI is to analyze their symptoms, then report your findings to your pediatrician:

  • Unexplained fever.
  • Strange-smelling urine.
  • Poor appetite, slow weight gain or vomiting.
  • Fussy, irritable behavior.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea.

A suspected UTI in an infant must be seen to immediately to prevent deterioration and kidney damage.

UTIs in the Elderly

UTIs are among the most common infections in the elderly, but their symptoms are often vague and non-specific.

Fatigue, agitation, incontinence or delirium, along with other behavioral changes, may be the only sign of a UTI in this demographic, both for male and female.  The elderly are also more likely to develop serious complications from UTIs.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a UTI.

  • Burning, pain (dysuria) sensation, as well as a repeated, strong urge to urinate (especially at night).
  • Pain or pressure in pelvis, lower abdomen or back
  • Cloudy, dark or odorous urine.
  • Fatigue and trembling.
  • Fever, chills, nausea or vomiting (especially if the infection reaches the kidneys).

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg can expertly evaluate and treat UTIs and help prevent them from recurring. To find out more, call Urology Specialists of Milford at (508) 473-6333 to request an appointment.

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