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Cystitis in men

Cystitis in men
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Cystitis is something that most women experience at least once. But did you know men can get it too?

Cystitis is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that affects the bladder. Most of the time the cause of cystitis is bacteria from faeces entering the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body).

The reason cystitis is more common in women than in men is because the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra – this means bacteria can reach the bladder more easily. However, cystitis can still affect men, and particularly older men.

What causes cystitis in men?

Cystitis in men can be caused by bacteria entering the urethra – this might happen during sex.

Other causes are:

  • Not being able to empty your bladder properly
  • Damage or irritation to the urethra

These issues may be caused by diabetes or by a condition affecting the bladder, kidney or prostate. You might have an obstruction in your urinary tract, like an enlarged prostate.

Cystitis symptoms in men

In both men and women, cystitis can cause:

  • Pain (e.g. burning or stinging) when you urinate
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Needing to urinate very urgently
  • Pain in your abdomen
  • Dark, cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Traces of blood in your urine
  • Feeling unwell and feverish

Left untreated, cystitis can spread to a man’s prostate gland and cause prostatitis. This can lead to:

  • Pain around the penis, testicles and anus
  • Pain in the abdomen and lower back
  • Pain when urinating and during bowel movements
  • Needing to urinate often and urgently
  • Not being able to urinate
  • Feeling unwell

Untreated cystitis can also spread to the kidneys, causing a high or low temperature, pain in the abdomen or back, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and confusion. If you suspect a kidney infection you should call 111 or ask your GP for an urgent appointment.

Cystitis symptoms in older men

In older people, particularly those who are frail with a cognitive impairment like dementia, UTIs like cystitis can cause:

Cystitis treatments for men

The first thing to know is when to get medical help. According to the NHS, men should always see a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if they’re having the symptoms of cystitis.

The same goes if you’re having the symptoms of prostatitis. However, if you suspect a kidney infection you should seek urgent medical advice.

The standard treatment for cystitis is antibiotics. Prostatitis will normally be treated with a longer course of antibiotics, as well as painkillers. A kidney infection may require treatment in a hospital – this is because kidney infections are rare in men and may be a sign of an underlying problem.

If your GP thinks your symptoms are mild and don’t require antibiotics, they might advise you to try self-help measures at home, such as:

Some people find cranberry juice and pharmacy treatments containing sodium citrate or potassium citrate helpful when they have cystitis.

Avoiding cystitis in the future

There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of cystitis in the future, including the following:

  • Always try to urinate after sex
  • Always empty your bladder fully when you urinate
  • Don’t hold it in – urinate when you first feel the urge
  • Avoid using perfumed soaps and bath products around your genitals
  • Take showers rather than baths to limit how much time your genitals are exposed to soaps and other cleaning products
  • Avoid having too much alcohol or coffee as these can irritate the bladder

Lastly, it’s always a good idea to have protected sex. Unprotected anal sex can be a risk factor for cystitis, as well as lots of STIs, so make sure to stock up on condoms!

Mild cystitis may clear up on its own within a few days. Otherwise, your GP will prescribe a short course of antibiotics. While you are recovering you should drink plenty of water and urinate frequently. You can ease pain and discomfort with over-the-counter painkillers and a hot water bottle on your abdomen.

An upper UTI/kidney infection requires a longer course of antibiotics than cystitis. Most people will be able to have this treatment at home, however some might need treatment in a hospital or further tests to find out the cause of the infection.

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