At some point or other, most women experience the discomfort of a urinary tract infection (UTI), and for many, chronic UTIs are not unusual. Women are more prone to UTIs than men because women have short urethras, which means it’s easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. The opening of the urethra is also close to the rectum, so there are plenty of bacteria—and wiping improperly can bring those bacteria right to the opening of the urethra.
At Apple Hill Gynecology, Dr. Marsha Bornt and her staff have helped many patients understand the reasons for recurrent UTIs, as well as some steps to take to prevent them. In this post we look at some of the reasons you may be getting recurrent UTIs and some of the things you can do to stop them.
Your urinary tract
Your urinary tract consists of several parts, including:
- Urethra - the tube that carries your bladder out of your body
- Bladder - collects and stores urine until it travels through the urethra, out of your body
- Ureters - connect your bladder and your kidneys
- Kidneys - filter the waste out of your blood in the form of urine
A urinary tract infection can occur anywhere in the process. UTIs that only affect your bladder are usually quite mild, but if the infection spreads to your kidneys, it’s a more serious problem.
Risk factors for UTIs
Women are at a greater risk of UTIs because of their anatomy, and young girls often get them because they don’t know how to wipe properly. Using a diaphragm and/or spermicide can also increase your chances of developing a UTI.
Sexually active women tend to get UTIs more often, and a new sexual partner can increase your risk, as well.
Women past menopause have a greater risk of UTIs for two reasons. One is that your bladder no longer contracts as strongly, and it may be difficult to completely empty. The second is that you have less estrogen, and that can change the balance of bacteria in your vagina.
What you can do
First, if you have a UTI, seek medical treatment. If it comes back, Dr. Bornt may want to repeat the urine culture and prescribe medication.
You can also do things in your normal day-to-day life to lower your risk of recurrent UTIs. You should urinate when you need to instead of holding it. You should also always urinate after intercourse.
When you wipe, be careful to go from front to back, limiting the chances of bacteria moving from your rectum to your urethra. You should also avoid bubble baths.
Even your clothing can make a difference. Avoid tight fitting pants, and choose cotton underwear.
Some beverages can irritate your bladder. You should avoid caffeine, citrus fruit drinks, soda, and alcohol if you’re dealing with recurrent UTIs.
If you use a diaphragm and/or spermicide, consider a different form of birth control. You should also use a lubricant during intercourse if you need it. If you’re past menopause, you may want to discuss estrogen therapy with Dr. Bornt.
If recurrent UTIs are a problem, schedule an appointment at Apple Hill Gynecology. Dr. Bornt is always happy to discuss your particular situation and make suggestions that may help you prevent the next UTI.