Many women who get a urinary tract infection (UTI) may get one again at some point in their lives. In fact, one in five women experience recurrent UTIs—an infection that occurs two times or more within six months or at least three times in a year. Men can get recurrent UTIs too, but it is not as common and is often due to some type of urinary tract blockage.
What Causes Recurring UTIs in Women?
There are many reasons why women may have recurring urinary infections, but we will focus on four common reasons.
1. Anatomy and/or genetics
Women are more prone to UTIs mostly because of their anatomy. A woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s. Plus it is located near the openings of the vagina and anus, meaning there’s more opportunity for bacteria from both those areas to spread—or be wiped—into the urethra. Once bacteria is in the urethra, it only has a short distance to travel to the bladder and cause an infection.
Additionally, some women have cells that are naturally more receptive to bacteria, meaning the bacteria are less likely to be flushed out by your natural body functions. In a 2009 study of more than 1,200 women who experience recurrent UTIs and kidney infections, researchers determined that a genetic variation in these cell receptors is associated with an increased risk of bladder and kidney infections.
2. Bathroom habits
Because a woman’s urethra is so short and so close to the vagina and anus, it’s important to wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom. This lessens the risk of any fecal matter or bacteria being moved from the anus into the urethra. It’s also important to make sure you are clean and dry before pulling your underwear back up. Any fecal matter or bacteria can land on the underwear and spread as the underwear moves as you walk, sit, exercise, etc.
3. Sexual activity
Bacteria can spread more easily during sexual activity, from your partner’s genitals, fingers, tongue or even sex toys. Such activity in that intimate area can also spread your own bacteria from your vagina or anus into your urethra. That’s why doctors tell you to pee after having intercourse or participating in any sexual activity—to help flush any errant bacteria out of the urethra. Practicing good hygiene before and after sexual activity is also helpful. Wash your intimate area as well as your hands and fingers before and after sex. Clean sex toys before and after using as well.
Diaphragms, spermicides and condoms may increase your risk for UTI if you are prone to recurrent infections. However, talk to your doctor about solutions. You may be able to go on a low-dose of antibiotics as a preventive measure for six months at a time or after having sex.
4. Other health issues
Having a suppressed immune system or chronic health condition can make you more prone to recurring infections, including UTIs. Diabetes increases your risk for a UTI, as does having certain autoimmune diseases, neurological diseases and kidney or bladder stones. If you’ve had surgery on any part of your urinary tract (urethra, bladder, ureter, kidney), resulting scar tissue or alteration in anatomy could leave you more susceptible to infection.
What Can You Do If You Keep Getting UTIs?
If you keep getting UTIs, you must talk to your doctor. After talking with you, your doctor will either recommend treatments for recurring urinary infections or send you to a special doctor called a urologist. A urologist focuses on diseases and problems of the entire urinary system, so he may be able to better pinpoint what is causing your infections and how to treat and prevent them.
In addition to the tips mentioned above, you can also take some other simple steps to help prevent UTIs, such as:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Do not hold pee in—if you have to go, find a bathroom and go.
- Avoid using scented products like sprays, douches and powders that are not gynecologist tested
If you have had a UTI, you know they can be painful. To help with that pain, try Uristat® Pain Relief Tablets. If you have kidney problems or diabetes, talk to your doctor first to make sure this pain reliever is safe for you.