Urinary tract infections are one of the most common ailments among men and women alike. While more prevalent in women, men are also susceptible to the illness. A number of causes of UTIs have been identified, though some are more obvious than others. At the same time, there are some surprising causes of a UTI, and it’s important to recognize these so that they can be avoided when possible, reducing the likelihood that an individual will suffer from an infection.
What is a UTI?
A UTI occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra or, in some cases, is not voided through urination from the bladder. In either case, there are factors involved that create the opportunity for the bacteria to breed, spread, and cause an infection. This is true, as well, in fungal UTIs, with the culprit being a fungus, usually due to some sort of imbalance in flora within the body.
Treatment for UTIs
As long as a UTI has not spread to the kidneys, it is fairly easy to treat with a short round of antibiotics that lasts three to seven days, depending on the type of antibiotic required and the severity of the infection. In addition, many patients opt to take over the counter pain medications to help ease the discomfort caused by the infections, and some may use topical creams to help reduce pain, inflammation, and itching around the genitals, which can become inflamed due to the infection.
Surprising causes of UTIs
1. Waiting to urinate
Holding urine in when the urge to pee arises can have some very negative effects. This misuse of the muscles in the area can lead to an eventual inability to empty the bladder completely of urine when the individual does urinate. Why is this such a problem? Residual urine resting in the bladder constantly produces a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This is especially true when holding urine causes inflammation in the urethra and bladder.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that female cyclists – those who use a bicycle to commute to work or as regular exercise – are more likely to suffer UTIs than those who rarely ride a bicycle. While the exact reason is unknown, medical professionals theorize it has to do with the configuration of the female anatomy. The urethra in a female is shorter than that of a male, and doctors feel it’s possible the compression on this already shortened organ makes it even easier for bacteria to reach and rest in crucial areas that lead to infections. Doctors suggest that, as with all UTIs, the risk can be lessened by staying hydrated during a workout.
Medicine is meant to assist with a condition or ailment, but many times, there are complications or side effects that come along with a particular course of treatment. This is also true with a UTI. As mentioned, retention of urine can create a breeding ground for bad bacteria that causes infection, and some medications cause the body to retain urine at unusually high levels. These include:
- Some antihistamines
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Anticholinergic medications
This may come as a surprise but having either Type I or Type II diabetes can increase the risk – and frequency – of UTIs. This is of particular concern to those whose blood sugar runs high and is not tightly controlled. One marker that shows a higher risk in diabetics is the hemoglobin A1C, which measures the average amount of sugar in the blood over the previous three months. When this is high, the instance of UTIs is higher. This is partially because the body tries to expel the excess sugar when urinating, which can quickly and easily irritate the urinary tract and, if leaving residual sugar in the bladder, help feed the growth of bacteria.
Like it or not, a lot of the clothing that makes women feel sexy also leads to more frequent urinary tract infections. Tight clothing, panties that don’t have a cotton crotch, thongs, string bikinis, lingerie, and other similar clothing cause several problems that can exacerbate the frequency and severity of UTIs, such as:
- Trapping moisture from both the urinary tract and the vagina. Moisture that is trapped causes bacterial growth.
- Compression of the sensitive tissue surrounding the urethra and genitals makes it more irritated and sensitive to bacteria.
- Tight underwear and clothing creates a “highway” between the areas of the crotch that are already extremely close together, including the urethra, the vagina, and the anus. This allows bacteria to more quickly spread from the anus to other parts, which leads to infection.
As pleasurable as it may be, sex is a common cause of UTIs, especially in women — and the more frequently a person engages in intercourse, the more likely they are to suffer from a UTI. This is because the bacteria from the vagina and anus, which are natural to those environments, are easily transferred to the opening of the urethra in the motion and fluid exchange during sex. That same bacteria is not native to the urinary tract and causes infection. While it isn’t very romantic, getting up to urinate as soon as possible after intercourse can help reduce the chances of a UTI by expelling and washing away that bacteria with the flow of urine.
7. Birth control
The use of a diaphragm, especially one with spermicide, spermicide itself, or a condom (especially without lubricant or with spermicide) can increase the risk of getting a UTI. The diaphragm puts pressure on the urethra, a lack of lubricant on a condom can lead to tears of the tissue in and around the vagina where bacteria can enter, and spermicide is a natural irritant.