Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are far more common in women than men, with one in two women likely to experience a UTI in their lifetime compared to one in 20 men according to Kidney Australia. However men experiencing UTIs could be showing signs of a more significant underlying problem.
Urologist Dr Norbert Doeuk says initial symptoms are often the same in men and women: a burning sensation when urinating and the need to urinate more frequently. Infections can also travel to the kidneys, and in men, the testicles or prostate, where they cause more severe symptoms such as fevers, loin pain, or swelling and pain in the testicles.
Medical conditions such as diabetes and certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy, and anything that suppresses the immune system can also limit the body's ability to fight off these kinds of infections.
Treatment for a UTI takes place at a GP practice, where a urine test is undertaken to determine the kind of bacteria a patient has and a broad spectrum (general purpose) antibiotic is prescribed to start fighting the infection immediately. Once the results of the urine test return a different antibiotic may be prescribed, or the GP will advise the patient to continue their current course.
"Symptoms usually disappear within a few days and you should always complete your full course of antibiotics that have been prescribed to ensure they do their job," says Dr Doeuk.
Left untreated the infection can spread to other parts of the urinary and reproductive systems, which is why men should see their GP as soon as they suspect they are experiencing UTI symptoms.
"If men are experiencing UTIs, they should be referred on to a specialist early in case there is something further to investigate, and certainly if they are having recurrent UTIs."
It is also worth mentioning previous UTIs to any new doctor as the prostate size changes with age. Middle-aged men as young as 40 can develop Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), despite not displaying symptoms until much later.
Dr Doeuk regularly treats men in his urology practice experiencing this condition, which he says can prevent the bladder from adequately emptying, leading to UTIs.
"Prostate enlargement is a factor of genetics and age, which means many of the people I see with such problems are in their 50s and 60s when they start getting significant issues."
Dr Doeuk is optimistic about the many treatments now available for treating enlarged prostates including the brand new non-invasive Rezum procedure which uses water vapour to shrink the prostate. It has very little impact on sexual function and can be performed as a day procedure, allowing patients to get back to regular activities almost immediately.
Dr Doeuk says that more than 50 per cent of the older men he sees have enlarged prostates and while the new treatment available is good news for these patients, he encourages people to seek help at the early signs of any issues with their urinary tract.
"Early investigation and treatment can help prevent complications such as UTIs and deterioration in bladder function."
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