Each year, more than 8.1 million adults — more women than men — go to the doctor because they have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your urinary tract is the four-part pathway that makes up your urinary system. It includes:
A UTI can affect any of the four different parts. When the infection only affects your bladder, it’s usually minor and easily treatable. However, if it spreads to your kidneys, it may create serious health consequences, and you may even need to be hospitalized.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) estimates that 20% of young adult women have recurring UTIs, infections that either don’t respond to treatment or keep coming back, even after the right treatment.
At Comprehensive Urology, with offices in the Beverly Grove area of Los Angeles, California, our team of skilled urologists provides advanced urinary tract infection diagnosis and treatments. And because we want to ensure that our patients understand their condition and what it takes to remain healthy, we’ve put together this guide to get you in the know.
A UTI results from a bacterial infection, most often when the bacteria enter through the urethra and then multiply in the bladder.
The most common way for this to happen is when microscopic bits of feces enter the tract during sex. Anal sex significantly increases your UTI risk, as does switching from anal to vaginal sex without first cleaning. Infections can also develop from toilet water backsplash or by wiping improperly (back-to-front instead of front-to-back).
Infections of the urethra, known as urethritis, can be due to bacteria or sexually transmitted diseases, though the latter is much less likely.
Chronic UTIs are more common in women than men due to two different aspects of basic human anatomy.
First, the urethra is closer to the rectum in women, making it easy for rectal bacteria to reach the urethra, especially if you don’t wipe properly. Young girls get frequent UTIs because they haven’t yet learned how to wipe in the correct direction.
Second, the female urethra is shorter than the male’s, meaning the bacteria don’t have to travel as far to reach the bladder, where they can easily multiply.
In addition, certain lifestyle factors put women at extra risk of developing a chronic UTI, like using a diaphragm during sex. Since diaphragms push up against the urethra, it’s harder to fully empty your bladder, and standing urine is more likely to grow bacteria.
Another factor is the constantly changing bacterial population in the vagina. Vaginal douches, spermicides, and some oral antibiotics all change your vaginal flora, and this can lead to infection. And menopause, with its rapid hormone changes, can also alter your vaginal bacteria.
When you have a UTI affecting your bladder, symptoms include:
If the UTI spreads to your kidneys, symptoms include:
At Comprehensive Urology, we offer four different diagnostic tools:
For UTIs in general, a course of oral antibiotics delivered over seven days is the primary treatment.
If you have chronic UTIs, though, your doctor may prescribe long-term, low-dose antibiotics for at least a week after the initial symptoms subside; this can help prevent symptoms from recurring.
If your chronic UTIs occur with menopause, vaginal estrogen therapy may be a solution. Speak with your doctor about potential side effects.
If you’re dealing with chronic UTIs, we can help. Give Comprehensive Urology a call at 424-260-0856, or schedule your appointment online today.