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How did I get a urinary tract infection?

Q. I am 68 years old, and recently I was diagnosed with my first urinary tract infection. Why did this happen, and could I have prevented it?

A. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are less common in men than in women. When UTIs occur in men over age 50, they often trace to an underlying problem with bladder emptying resulting from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In BPH, the prostate gland enlarges, and can eventually compress the tube that drains the bladder.

If the bladder does not empty completely, bacteria normally flushed out with the urine might gain a foothold and lead to infection. A man whose bladder is not emptying properly may develop symptoms such as frequent urination, urinary urgency, or the need to return to the bathroom just a few minutes after urinating. A urinary tract infection will worsen those symptoms and make urination painful.

There are no proven lifestyle changes to prevent UTIs in men. Cranberry juice, with its anti-bacterial properties, has been studied in younger women, but we don’t know if it also works in men. Men are often advised to completely empty the bladder on a regular schedule, as well as to drink plenty of liquids. These steps help to counteract the possible stagnation of urine that can result from BPH and lower the chance of infection.

If urinary tract infections keep returning, treatment of BPH with medications or surgery can help empty the bladder and prevent future infections. Another possible source for recurrent urinary infections is an infection of the prostate (prostatitis), which requires a longer course of antibiotics (often 3 weeks).

— William Kormos, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

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