Why men should be more concerned about UTI pain

Sick asian middle aged man suffering from dysuria,acute cystitis and smelly urine from urinary tract infection,people patient holding crotch in toilet,prostate problems,painful or difficult urination
UTIs can affect men as well, although women are much more susceptible to them due to a shorter urethra. (Getty Images)

Getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) is no fun at all, as many women can attest. However, new research has revealed that British men are under the impression that UTIs aren’t really a big deal.

According to a survey by medical testing brand Newfoundland Diagnostics, 71% of men believe that UTIs are not painful, suggesting that they think women exaggerate the pain felt from the infection.

A UTI is an infection that occurs in any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra. Women are up to 30 times more likely to get a UTI compared to men due to a shorter urethra, which means the experience is less common among men.

The survey, involving 1,500 respondents, also showed that men in Manchester are most likely (71%) to downplay the pain caused by UTIs, followed by men from Glasgow (66%), Newcastle (60%), Birmingham (60%), and London (55%).

But the reality is that UTIs can indeed lead to debilitating pain. Abbas Kanani, superintendent pharmacist at Chemist Click, explains: "It causes severe burning sensation during peeing and increases how often you need to urinate which can disrupt your day to day significantly.

"You may also have constant pain or pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvic area making it difficult for you to function throughout the day. If the infection has spread, fever and chills are likely, which will make you feel very unwell and unable to do normal everyday activities."

Mature adult man illness
Men may not be familiar with symptoms of UTIs, which could lead to delayed treatment. (Getty Images)

Men may be less familiar with the symptoms and severity of the discomfort that UTIs can cause, which may lead to them dismissing complaints from women.

But Dr Chun Tang, medical director and GP at Pall Mall Medical, adds that men are also "often conditioned to downplay pain and discomfort, sticking to societal expectations of the ‘tough guy’ image".

However, it’s important for men to recognise the symptoms of a UTI in order to understand its potential severity, he tells Yahoo UK.

"Men might compare the pain of a UTI to other illnesses they have experienced, which could lead to them discounting the infection if they perceive it as less severe than other conditions," he explains.

"Sometimes, men might put their symptoms down to other less severe issues, such as dehydration or minor irritation, rather than recognising them as signs of a UTI.

"Reducing the stigma of male UTIs involves increasing awareness and education about the condition. Public health campaigns can play a crucial role in normalising the conversation around UTIs in men by highlighting that they can affect anyone, regardless of gender."

Kanani adds: "In men, UTIs have been linked to underlying prostate enlargement, which if more severe, may need medicine or surgery to make your prostate smaller.

"It is also associated with kidney stones which can cause severe tummy pain and vomiting and if the stones are large, may need to be broken up or removed with surgery or urinary tract abnormalities.

"Just like for women, an untreated STI can also cause sepsis and a kidney infection, known as pyelonephritis, causing severe pain and can lead to kidney damage."

Symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating

  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, including at night

  • Needing to urinate suddenly or more urgently than usual

  • Urine that appears cloudy

  • Blood in urine

  • Pain in the lower tummy or back

  • High temperature, or feeling hot and shivery

  • Low temperature below 36C

If left untreated, a UTI can become severe. Symptoms such as a very high or very low temperature, pain in the tummy or back, blood in urine, and feeling confused and drowsy may indicate a kidney infection, which can cause sepsis.

In order to educate those who have never experienced a UTI before, Newfoundland Diagnostics has partnered with sauce creator Lazy Scientist to come up with a hot sauce that “replicates the burning sensations sufferers describe”.

The ‘Feel the Burn’ sauce is created with a selection of fiery chilli peppers, including the Carolina Reaper - previously the world’s hottest chilli until it was beaten by Pepper X in 2023.

The sauce also contains Naga and Scotch Bonnet chillies and star anise to create a "lingering, prolonged burn reminiscent of UTI symptoms". It even has cranberry juice, a popular home remedy for treating and preventing UTIs.

Newfoundland Diagnostics has partnered with sauce creator Lazy Scientist to create a hot sauce that aims to help people who have never experienced a UTI before understand the pain it causes. (Newfoundland Diagnostics)
Newfoundland Diagnostics has partnered with sauce creator Lazy Scientist to create a hot sauce that aims to help people who have never experienced a UTI before understand the pain it causes. (Newfoundland Diagnostics)

Michael Hodnett, co-founder of Newfoundland Diagnostics, said in a statement: "Too often, women suffering from UTIs have their symptoms and experience dismissed, leading to frustration and, in some cases, misdiagnosis.

"Our 'Feel the Burn' campaign has been developed to be a fun yet impactful way to raise awareness around this serious issue, encourage empathy and get the nation to test and not ignore symptoms."

Dr Hilary Jones, GP and television broadcaster as well as an ambassador for Newfoundland Diagnostics, added: "UTIs should not be taken lightly. While often regarded as a common infection that disproportionately impacts women, if left untreated, a UTI can lead to serious kidney infections and even life-threatening blood infections.

"We must all do better to take even the most common of infections seriously, as well as be empathetic to the experiences of others, especially within a medical context."

Watch: What causes urinary tract infections?

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