If you’re a woman, odds are you’ve probably had a urinary tract infection at some point in your life. Odds are about 1 in 2 for a woman to develop a urinary tract infection, with many women having repeat infections.
When treated promptly, urinary tract infections can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics. This is important, as it’s essential to keep the infection in the urethra and the bladder, keeping it from infecting the kidneys.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract, the bladder, and the urethra.
Women are far more likely to develop a UTI than men.
What causes a urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. In women, the urethra — the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the toilet — is very close to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, can sometimes get out of the anus and into the urethra. Women also have shorter urethras than men: which makes it easier for bacteria to get through the urethra into the bladder. Sexual activity can introduce bacteria into your urinary tract, as well.
Some women are more prone to developing a UTI because of the shape of their urinary tract. Diabetics are at a higher risk, as are women going through hormonal changes such as menopause.
What are the most common urinary tract infections?
- Infection of the bladder (cystitis) — This type of UTO is usually caused by E. coli bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract. The short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder makes all women at risk for this form of UTI.
- Infection of the urethra (urethritis) — This is similarly caused by bacteria spreading from the anus to the urethra. Because the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma, can also cause urethritis.
What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?
These are typical symptoms of a URI:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red, bright pink, or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain, especially in the center of the pelvis is around the area of the pubic bone
How are urinary tract infections treated?
Antibiotics are the usual treatment for UTIs. These are some common drugs we prescribe at Premier OB/GYN:
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (brand names Bactrim, Septra, and others)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
These drugs usually clear symptoms in just a few days, although the patient always needs to complete the entire course of the antibiotic. If you’re having serious pain when urinating, we may also provide an analgesic medication for pain.
If you have frequent UTIs, we may alter your treatment in these ways:
- Low-dose antibiotics that may be taken for six months or longer
- A single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse if your infections are related to sexual activity
- Vaginal estrogen therapy if you’re postmenopausal
Is it possible to prevent urinary tract infections?
These are some steps you can take to lower your risk of developing a UTI:
- Empty your bladder often as soon as you feel the need to urinate; don’t hurry; be sure to empty your bladder completely.
- Empty your bladder soon after intercourse and drink a full glass of water to help flush any bacteria.
- Drink cranberry juice. The red berry contains a tannin that might prevent E. coli bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder, where they can cause an infection.
- Drink lots of water.
- Wipe from the front to the back after a bowel movement.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products. Using deodorant sprays, douches, or powders in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
- Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.
Why are urinary tract infections more common in women than men?
While approximately 1 in 2 women will get a urinary tract infection at some point in her life, the odds are only 1 in 10 for men. Anatomy is the basic reason for this: the close proximity of a woman’s anus to her urethra makes it easy for bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract (usually E. coli) to make its way from the anus into the urethra and then up into the bladder. Men have a longer urethra and it is not close to the anus.
Are urinary tract infections classified as a sexually transmitted disease?
No. These are infections. They can occur after sexual intercourse, but they are not an STD.
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If you're interested in learning more about UTI's please contact us for a consultation at (941) 745-5115 or fill out our contact us form. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.