• The risk factors for Urinary Tract Infections among women

     

    What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

    One of the major and common health threats to our community is urinary tract infection (UTI), since the risk of its recurrence increases after developing the first episode.

    The American Urological Association indicated that 150 million UTIs occur yearly world-wide, and the National Kidney Foundation showed that 1 in 5 women will experience UTI at some point in their lives. Nevertheless, minimizing the number of bacteria entering the urinary tract can protect against UTI.

     

    What Causes UTIs in Women?

    The common cause of UTIs in sexually active women is intercourse. The urethra comes in contact with the bacteria from the genital area and anus, thus entering the urinary tract (urethra and bladder) and possibly the kidneys. However, in non-sexually active women, the risk of UTI is much lower, and is commonly misdiagnosed and mistaken with vaginal infection.

     

    How can a person identify a UTI?

    UTIs can manifest in two different forms, simple and complicated. They are differentiated by their symptoms:

    1- Simple UTI: This type is more common in women, and it is expressed by an increased frequency in urination, with painful burning sensation, and in some cases blood in urine.

    2- Complicated UTI: A complicated urinary tract infection, whether localized to the lower or upper tract, is associated with an underlying condition that increases the risk of failing therapy. Patients with complicated infection may present with sepsis, multiple organ system dysfunction, and/or acute renal failure.

     

    What tests and treatments could be administered for UTIs?

    Treating UTI usually depends on the diagnosis after a medical examination. The doctor will ask for a urine culture to determine the type of bacteria causing the infection. The course of the treatment will depend on the severity of the case and on how often it occurs. The main recommendation will be to consume lots of water and cranberry juice, which may help in reducing the infection.

     

    What are different treatments for recurrent UTI in women?

    Recurrent UTI means that the person is constantly developing new episodes. In such case, the doctor will prescribe either one of the following treatments:

    • Chronic antibiotic therapy for 3 to 6 months
    • Post intercourse pill
    • Pre-intercourse pill

     

    What increases the risk of UTIs?

    In general, any suppression of the immune system from a certain disease, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis or any other condition, will increase the risk of contracting UTIs.

    Additionally, there are some risk factors specific to women, including their anatomy, sexual activity, birth control pills and menopause.

     

    Why are UTIs more common in women than in men?

    Women are more prone to UTIs than men due to the anatomy of their urinary tract. First of all, women’s urethra is very close to the vagina, while that of men is safely enclosed at a distance. Second, the length of the women’s urethra is 5 cm while that of men is 20 cm. This simple difference facilitates the entry and accumulation of the bacteria in the bladder, thus increasing the risk of UTIs.

     

    Why are pregnant women more susceptible to contracting UTIs?

    The numerous changes in the woman’s body during pregnancy, including hormonal and physiological changes increase the risk of UTIs. In fact, with the advanced growth of the baby, the uterus will be pushed forward to sit above the bladder. This, in addition to the increased weight, will cause urine retention in the bladder and ultimately a UTI.

     

    Are there general tips you would like to give women to prevent UTIs?

    1- Drink a lot of water

    2- Use the toilet very often

    3- Urinate after engaging in intercourse

    4- Maintain a good hygiene, and avoid aggressive vaginal douching (washing or flushing the woman’s intimate area with water or other fluids).

    5- Ask your doctor or nurse about vaginal estrogen, if you are a woman who has been through menopause. Vaginal estrogen comes in a cream or a flexible ring that you put into your vagina. It can help prevent bladder infections.

     

    If you begin urinating less frequently, or if your urine is dark, cloudy, or painful we strongly encourage you to contact your health care professional or you can contact the Urology Division at Mount Lebanon Hospital

     

    Dr. Ghazi Sakr

    Head Division Urology, MLH

    General Secretary, Urology Society

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