If you’ve been through the discomfort of a urinary tract infection (UTI), you understand that once is already one time too many. More than half of women in the United States develop a UTI at some point in their lives, and a small percentage go on to have chronic problems with these infections.
Our team at Arizona Urology is well-versed in men’s health and female urology, which covers issues like chronic UTIs.
This month’s blog discusses why some women are more prone to recurrent UTIs and how we can end the problem.
To kick off this discussion, let’s first review the basics of UTIs, infections that usually develop in your lower urinary tract — your urethra and bladder. UTIs occur when bacteria, usually E. coli, make their way up your urethra and into your bladder.
Less commonly, the infection can spread to your kidneys through your ureters, which is more serious than a common UTI.
The reason why women are 30 times more likely to get a UTI than men is twofold: 1) A woman's urethra is much shorter, so bacteria can get to the bladder more easily, and 2) The urethral opening is close to the anus, which leads to cross-contamination.
Understanding the risks
Aside from being female, there are other major risk factors for UTIs, and understanding these risks can go a long way toward prevention. The fact is that 25% to 30% of women who get a UTI get another one within six months, so recurrence is common.
Before menopause, some of the leading risk factors for UTIs include sex, which can introduce new bacteria to your genital area, and these bacteria can make their way into your bladder.
Another culprit is the use of spermicides, which can kill off good bacteria that fight off E. coli.
After menopause, your risks for UTIs expand and include a natural decline in beneficial bacteria and a natural weakening in your bladder, which allows urine to linger.
Preventing and treating UTIs
Now that we’ve reviewed the top risk factors for UTIs, we will revisit them to illustrate good prevention techniques.
For example, after intercourse, we recommend urinating as soon as possible. Doing this will flush out any bacteria that might be traveling to your urinary tract.
If you use spermicides and you’re experiencing frequent UTIs, it might be time to explore a different type of birth control.
After menopause, we suggest that you keep your bladder support strong through pelvic floor exercises. Also, if you’re having recurring UTIs, you can try estrogen creams to restore a healthier pH balance in your vagina, which will help prevent the infections.
Outside of these, we also recommend these UTI prevention tips:
- Not lingering in sweaty underwear or wet bathing suits
- Avoid holding your urine
- Wipe from front to back and never in the other direction
- Drink plenty of fluids
Any time you get a UTI, antibiotics are the only way to fight off the infection, and you don’t want to delay taking those as the infection can spread.
For more information about chronic UTIs in women, please contact one of our locations in Phoenix, Goodyear, Gilbert, or Glendale, Arizona, to schedule an appointment.