There’s a lot you already know about urinary tract infections (UTI’s): they are painful, inconvenient and seem to happen more often as you age. But did you know they are the second most common type of infection, causing 8.1 million health care visits a year? Or if the infection is not treated in a timely manner, it can cause serious damage to your kidneys?
Women are more likely than men to get a UTI, and they are more likely to have recurring UTI’s. In fact, 20 percent of young women who have their first UTI will have a recurrent infection. Even more staggering is the fact that women have a 50 percent chance of having a UTI during their lifetimes.
The Urinary Tract
Bacteria pass through the urinary tract every day, usually without any problems. However, when the bacteria build up, they cause an infection. A UTI is caused by fungi and viruses, although bacteria are the most common cause.
Parts of the urinary tract work together to rid your body of toxins. To understand why women are more prone to urinary tract infections, it’s important to understand some basic urinary tract anatomy:
- Your kidneys filter waste from your blood. This forms urine.
- Ureters then carry the urine to the bladder from the kidneys.
- Your bladder stores the urine until it’s full.
- The bladder then sends the urine through the urethra, and out of the body.
- If bacteria enter the urethra, it increases the risk of a UTI
Symptoms of a UTI
If you have any of the following signs, speak to your local doctor:
- Pressure in the lower abdomen
- Frequent urge to pass urine
- Burning, stinging pain when urinating
- Abnormal urine: this means that it looks milky, cloudy or reddish.
- Blood in the urine — if this happens, see your doctor as soon as possible
Four Things all Women Should know about UTI’s
1. Know how to avoid getting a UTI
Why are women more likely to get a UTI than men? Blame it on biology. A woman’s urethra is located closer to the anus and vagina. This means bacteria from these areas can easily make it to the urethra. For this reason, it’s important to be proactive and take steps to avoid a UTI. Some ways to prevent UTIs include:
- Be sure to clean your genital area thoroughly each day.
- Avoid douches and feminine hygiene sprays. These can cause irritation and possibly push bacteria into the urethra.
- Avoid tub baths—take showers instead.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting pants.
- Wear underpants with a cotton crotch.
- Don’t hold your urine – go to the bathroom when necessary.
2. Sexual activity can increase your risk of a urinary tract infection.
During intercourse, germs in the vagina can easily be pushed into the urethra. Going to the bathroom before and after sex can decrease your chances of getting a UTI.
Certain types of birth control—such as spermicides or diaphragms—increase your risk. If you use these, speak to your doctor about other forms of birth control.
3. If you have gone through menopause, you’re more likely to develop a UTI.
Reduced estrogen and vaginal changes after menopause place you at greater risk for infections.
4. Delaying treatment for a UTI can lead to kidney damage.
Most UTI’s can be easily resolved with a round of antibiotics. However, if you wait too long, the infection can cause kidney problems.