Recurring Urinary Tract Infections
If you’ve experienced repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs), you know the toll they can take on your life. However, you may take some comfort in knowing that they may not be the result of anything you’ve done. Recurrent UTIs aren’t only due to poor hygiene, some women are just prone to them.
What is a UTI?
These infections are usually caused by Escherichia coli, a bacterium that lives in the intestinal system. If E. coli are carried from the rectum to the vagina, they can enter the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder) and infect the bladder. You might feel a frequent urgency to urinate yet pass little urine when you go. You may also notice your urine is cloudy, blood-tinged and has a strong smell. For 25% to 30% of women who’ve had urinary tract infections, the infection returns within six months.
Why do some women get recurring UTIs?
Risk factors for UTIs vary with age. Before menopause, the most common risk factor is sexual intercourse. Sex increases the number of bacteria in the bladder and many experts advise women to urinate after sex to flush these bacteria out. Spermicides may also kill off Lactobacilli, the good bacteria in the vagina, making it easier for E. coli to move in.
If you’re experiencing UTIs post-menopause, certain physical changes help set the stage. The numbers of Lactobacilli (good bacteria) in the vagina naturally decline during menopause. The bladder also contracts less strongly than it once did, making it more difficult to completely empty it.
In both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women, genetics also play a role. Having a mother or sister who has frequent UTIs can be a risk factor.
How to Prevent UTIs
- Drink plenty of fluids every day. Aim for 2-3 liters
- Use alternative contraception that does not include a spermicide
- Frequent urination every 2-3 hours. Don’t postpone urination
- Empty your bladder immediately after sexual intercourse
- Consider vaginal estrogen therapy for post-menopausal women
- Wipe front to back
- Avoid tight underpants and jeans
If you’re experiencing recurring UTIs, make an appointment with a urologist today. https://www.ochsner.org/services/urology.