Your guide to men’s urinary health

Wondering about the workings of your waterworks? Here are some common male urinary concerns answered

Most of us only worry about our bodies when something goes wrong. But understanding how your internal plumbing works can keep those waterworks woes at bay.

How does the male urinary system work?

Just as in women, your kidneys filter out all the waste products and excess water from your blood to make urine. This passes down two thin tubes, called ureters, to your bladder. Once it’s full, you get that familiar urge, find a loo, relax your muscles and the urine travels down the urethra in the penis and out of your body.1

Of course, it’s not always so simple. Find out the answers to some common urinary questions bothering men:

How often should I be peeing every day?

Most adults go to the loo around six or seven times a day, but between four and 10 is considered normal.2 Any less than this and you may be dehydrated. Any more and it could be a sign of an underlying condition such as diabetes, a urinary tract infection or enlarged prostate – the gland at the base of your bladder.2

Look at your urine – ideally it should be straw colour. If it’s darker, you need to drink more liquids such as water, juice or herbal teas. Note that alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you go more frequently and can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can cause headaches in the short term and increase risk of urinary infections and kidney problems over time.3,4 See your GP if… you’ve noticed a sudden change in your urinary habits for no obvious reason, or if you have other unexplained symptoms such as back pain, blood in your urine or a change in its colour or smell, problems controlling the flow, pain on peeing, tiredness, weight loss, blurred vision or increased hunger or thirst.5

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Is it normal to ‘dribble’ after I pee?

A 2011 study published in the BJU International found that this happens to more than one in 10 men.6 It can affect all ages, though it’s more likely as you get older.7 Dribbling after peeing happens when a small amount of urine remains in your urethra, due to a weakness of the surrounding pelvic floor muscles.8

Using your fingers, try applying gentle pressure just behind your scrotum, moving towards the base of your penis. This will push the urine forward, so it can be squeezed out.

In the long term, pelvic floor exercises will help strengthen your muscles.

See your GP if… it’s more than a dribble or you have other unexplained symptoms, including problems with flow, urgency, burning, pain when peeing or needing to get up several times a night to empty your bladder.9

My urine looked reddish the other day – should I be worried?

Not if you’d eaten lots of beetroot – the vegetable can colour your urine, as can some medication.10 Otherwise, it could be blood, which can come from anywhere in your urinary tract, including your urethra, bladder or kidneys, and can look pink or dark brown. This has several potential causes, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones and an enlarged prostate.11 See your GP if… there’s any chance it was blood – even if you don’t have other symptoms and it’s only happened once. That way anything serious can be treated promptly.12

Why does it burn when I pee?

It could be prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate gland – which can affect men of any age. It can come and go over time and often has no obvious cause. But severe, sudden bouts can be caused by a bacterial infection. You may have other symptoms, including pain around your genitals, abdomen or lower back.13 Another possibility is inflammation of your urethra – a condition called urethritis – as a result of infection (sometimes sexually-transmitted), friction from sex, or an allergy to soap or detergents.14,15

Practise safer sex and stick to non-scented soaps.

See your GP… even if there are no other symptoms and the problem goes away. It’s important to find the cause and treat any infection to prevent it spreading to others. Untreated infections can lead to future problems, including infertility, in you or any sexual partners. More serious causes need to be ruled out, too.16

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Why do I keep needing to pee at night?

This is more likely as you get older. If you regularly have to get up two or more times, it’s called nocturia.17 With age, we produce less of the anti-diuretic hormone that helps us hold on to urine at night.18 On top of this, our pelvic floor muscles, which control our bladder, may weaken.19 For a couple of hours before bed, avoid drinking anything, especially alcohol, which is a diuretic, or caffeine, which can irritate your bladder.20 It can also be caused by a bladder infection, an enlarged prostate pressing on your urethra, or other underlying conditions, including diabetes, heart or kidney problems or neurological problems.21 See your GP if… the broken sleep is interfering with your quality of life during the day, or you’re also getting other symptoms such as problems controlling flow, pain, tiredness, increased hunger or thirst, weight changes, blurred vision or anything unexplained.22

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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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Sources

1.National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Urinary Tract & How It Works. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works
2. Medical News Today. How many times a day should a person pee? Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321461.php
3. Patient. Headache. Available from: https://patient.info/health/headache-leaflet
4. Mayo Clinic. Dehydration. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
5. As Source 2
6. Maserejian NN, et al. Prevalence of post-micturition symptoms in association with lower urinary tract symptoms and health-related quality of life in men and women. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135743/
7. John Robinson. Post-micturition dribble in men: causes and treatment. Available from: https://journals.rcni.com/doi/abs/10.7748/ns2008.04.22.30.43.c6440
8. Bladder & Bowel Community. Post-micturition dribble. Available from: https://www.bladderandbowel.org/bladder/bladder-conditions-and-symptoms/post-micturition-dribble/
9. Continence Foundation of Australia. What is after-dribble? Available from: https://www.continence.org.au/pages/after-dribble.html
10. NHS Choices. Blood in urine. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-in-urine/#when-to-get-medical-help
11. As above
12. As Source 10
13. NHS Choices. Prostatitis. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Prostatitis/
14. NHS Choices. Overview. Non-gonococcal urethritis. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-gonococcal-urethritis/
15. Very Well Health. Causes of an Itchy Urethra in Men. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/cause-and-treatment-of-an-itchy-urethra-in-men-49401
16. Better Health Channel. Non-specific urethritis. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/non-specific-urethritis-nsu
17. Healthline. Excessive urination at night (nocturia). Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/urination-excessive-at-night
18. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Nocturia (getting up at night to pass urine). Available from: https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/elderly-care/nocturia.pdf
19. Healthline. Exercises for Men with Prostate Problems or an Overactive Bladder. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/overactive-bladder-exercises-men
20. As Source 18
21. As Source 18
22. National Association of Continence. Nocturia. Available from: https://www.nafc.org/nocturia

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