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What Are Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and How Can You Treat Them?

Learn why some women tend to get UTI’s and how to help prevent and treat them.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,

Want to know what condition sends more female patients to my office than any other? The answer: Urinary tract infections (UTIs).

“Why is it that women get so many UTI’s, and men seem to never have them?!” a close friend of mine once asked.  She was experiencing recurrent UTI’s, having about one infection every one to two months.  Frustrated, she called me up to try and figure out why this could be happening to her.

“It can’t be a sexually transmitted infection, could it?!”  She was worried and desperate because her partner didn’t seem to have any symptoms of infection, whereas she seemed to experience these infections after intercourse.

What Are UTIs?

UTIs are basically caused by bacteria. E.Coli is the main bacterial culprit and is responsible for UTIs in about eighty percent of women.  E.Coli typically lives in the human colon and when it migrates and then travels from the outer urinary opening up through the tube that connects to the bladder, called the urethra, it can invade the bladder and cause infection.

Women in general are at greater risk of UTIs because of our anatomy--our urinary openings are closer in proximity to our rectums, which house lots of bacteria from feces.  It’s much easier for cross contamination of these areas to occur in women than in men. UTIs are quite rare in men because their urinary openings are much further away from their rectal areas. 

What Are the Symptoms of UTIs?

UTIs can cause such symptoms as burning or pain with urination, a feeling of an urgency or frequency to pee, or pelvic pressure.  If the infection travels even further up from the bladder to the kidneys, symptoms can include fevers, low back pain, and nausea or vomiting.

What Causes UTI’s?

Though any woman can get a UTI, certain women are at greater risk of getting them and hence, have more frequent infections.  These risk factors can include: 

  • Diabetes

  • Neurological conditions, like in those with spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis

  • Certain conditions that require chronic or frequent urinary catheterizations

  • More frequent sexual intercourse

  • Prolapsed bladder

  • Any abnormalities in the urinary anatomy 

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