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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : How do men get urinary tract infections?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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June 18, 2014
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It depends upon which part of the urinary tract has become infected.

In men, urinary tract infections could affect different parts of the body.

It could involve the: 

  • Urethra, causing urethritis. (The urethra runs from the opening at the tip of the penis to the bladder.)
  • Bladder, causing cystitis.
  • Prostate, causing prostatitis.
  • Kidney, causing pyelonephritis.

Urethritis in men is most often caused by a sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.

But other types of bacteria not related to sex can also enter the tip of the penis. It's rare, since urine will usually wash bacteria away before they can infect the lining of the urethra. But on rare occasion, it can cause an infection.

Bladder infections in men happen much less frequently than they do in women. In fact, they're very uncommon. That's because a man has a longer urethra. This makes it harder for bacteria to get into the bladder. So men who have more than one bladder infection should see their doctor for a possible underlying cause. They could have a change in the normal tract that makes it easier for bacteria to get into the bladder.

Prostatitis can happen if bacteria make their way from the bladder to the prostate gland. Prostatitis is rarely related to a sexually transmitted infection.

A few bacteria can make it from the urethra all the way to the kidneys. They then can multiply and cause an infection. A kidney can also become infected if there are bacteria in the blood that then get into the kidney.

Men who engage in anal sex have a higher risk of all the above types of urinary tract infection.  

 

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