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The Science of Male Urinary Tract Infections

Yes, men get UTIs. But usually not until age 50. If you're experiencing symptoms before then, here's what that means.

Urinary tract infections might just seem like they’re just for the ladies, but men can experience symptoms when they pee, including painful, frequent, or urgent urination. If you’re over age 50, it might be a legitimate UTI. If you’re under 50, it’s more likely that you have a sexually transmitted disease, prostatitis, or a bladder inflammation. Because the conventional wisdom is true. Young men almost never get UTIs.  

“UTIs for men and for women are completely different, mainly due to the fact that the urethra in men are way longer than in women,” Dr. David Shusterman, urologist and founder of NY Urology told Fatherly. “Bacteria has a much longer path to get to the prostate and bladder while a woman’s UTI is different, since the urethra is shorter.”

As a result, more than half of women will have UTI at some point in their lifetime. But the main reason that men begin to get UTIs as they age is due to prostatic enlargement. When this starts to occur, usually not before age 50, the enlarged prostate can push up against the urethra, blocking normal urine flow from the bladder. This causes urine to pool in the bladder for longer periods of time, which fosters the bacterial growth that can lead to a UTI. 

That’s not to say younger men, or older men with normal prostates, won’t experience the symptoms of a UTI, such as painful, frequent, or urgent urination. But in those cases, it’s usually not a UTI—or, at least not a conventional infection. “Most of the time they’re not really UTIs. They are urethritis, which is an STD, prostatitis, or bladder inflammations, and not really coming from bacteria,” Shusterman says. In these cases, the usual UTI regimen of antibiotics would prove ineffective, and fail to the treat the underlying cause of the inflammation. “It needs to be looked into and evaluated properly, especially if all other treatments fail, for STDs or prostatitis.”

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The takeaway message is that, if you’re under the age of 50 and you’re experiencing the symptoms of a UTI, it is likely the result of an underlying medical condition such as an STD. So it’s crucial that you see a doctor and receive proper treatment. “A lot of men that will get STDs or currently have an STD, typically do not investigate or ask for a proper diagnosis simply because they have never even witnessed any symptoms,” Shusterman says.

“It is important if you have any suspicion to not downplay it or justify it. Come in and get evaluated.”