Urinary tract infections UTIs in adults are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for about 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year.
Women are especially prone to UTIs for anatomical reasons. One factor is that a woman’s urethra is shorter, allowing bacteria quicker access to the bladder. Also, a woman’s urethral opening is near sources of bacteria from the anus and vagina.
For women, the lifetime risk of having a UTI is greater than 50 percent. UTIs in men are not as common as in women but can be serious when they occur.
Who is at risk for Urinary Tract Infections UTIs in Adults?
Although everyone has some risk, some people are more prone to getting UTIs than others.People with spinal cord injuries or other nerve damage around the bladder have difficulty emptying their bladder completely, allowing bacteria to grow in the urine that stays in the bladder.
Anyone with an abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine—a kidney stone or enlarged prostate. People with diabetes or problems with the body’s natural defense system are more likely to get UTIs.
Sexual activity can move microbes from the bowel or vaginal cavity to the urethral opening. If these microbes have special characteristics that allow them to live in the urinary tract, it is harder for the body to remove them quickly enough to prevent infection.
Following sexual intercourse, most women have a significant number of bacteria in their urine, but the body normally clears them within 24 hours. However, some forms of birth control increase the risk of Urinary Tract Infections UTIs in Adults.
In some women, certain spermicides may irritate the skin, increasing the risk of bacteria invading surrounding tissues. Using a diaphragm may slow urinary flow and allow bacteria to multiply. Condom use is also associated with increased risk of UTIs, possibly because of the increased trauma that occurs to the vagina during sexual activity. Using spermicides with diaphragms and condoms can increase risk even further.
Tubes & Catheters
Catheters interfere with the body’s ability to clear microbes from the urinary tract. Bacteria travel through or around the catheter and establish a place where they can thrive within the bladder.
A person who cannot urinate in the normal way or who is unconscious or critically ill often needs a catheter for more than a few days. The Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends using catheters for the shortest time possible to reduce the risk of a UTI.
Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections UTIs in Adults
Many women suffer from frequent UTIs. About 20 percent of young women with a first UTI will have a recurrent infection. With each UTI, the risk that a woman will continue having recurrent UTIs increases.
Some women have three or more UTIs a year. However, very few women will have frequent infections throughout their lives. More typically, a woman will have a period of 1 or 2 years with frequent infections, after which recurring infections cease.
Men are less likely than women to have a first UTI. But once a man has a UTI, he is likely to have another because bacteria can hide deep inside prostate tissue.
Infections during Pregnancy
Pregnant women seem no more prone to UTIs than other women. However, when a UTI does occur in a pregnant woman, it is more likely to travel to the kidneys. According to some reports, about 4 to 5 percent of pregnant women develop a UTI.
Scientists think that hormonal changes and shifts in the position of the urinary tract during pregnancy make it easier for bacteria to travel up the ureters to the kidneys and cause infection.
How are Urinary Tract Infections UTIs in Adults diagnosed?
To find out whether a person has a UTI, the health care provider will ask about urinary symptoms and then test a sample of urine for the presence of bacteria and white blood cells, which are produced by the body to fight infection.
If a person has recurrent UTIs, the health care provider may order some additional tests to determine if the person’s urinary tract is normal.
- Kidney and bladder ultrasound
- Voiding cystourethrogram
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Radionuclide scan
How can recurrent UTIs be prevented?
Changing some daily habits may help a person prevent recurrent UTIs.
- Eating, Diet, and Nutrition: Drinking lots of fluid can help flush bacteria from the system. Water is best. Most people should try for six to eight, 8-ounce glasses a day.
- Urination Habits: A person should urinate often and when the urge arises. Bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder too long. Women and men should urinate shortly after sex to flush away bacteria that might have entered the urethra during sex.
- Clothing: Cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes should be worn, so air can keep the area around the urethra dry.
- Birth Control: For women, using a diaphragm or spermicide for birth control can lead to UTIs by increasing bacteria growth. A woman who has trouble with UTIs should try switching to a new form of birth control. Switching to lubricated condoms without spermicide or using a nonspermicidal lubricant may help prevent UTIs.
Adult Pediatric Urology & Urogynecology
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