A urinary tract infection, also called a UTI, can be disruptive to a person’s lifestyle, and while anyone can develop one, this is especially of concern to women. The symptoms of UTIs are all difficult to manage, even more so for those who are active, and it can become an issue with focus and concentration, interruptions in activities, anxiety about getting to a bathroom, pain that makes movement difficult, and even fatigue from lack of sleep. Even worse, some people suffer from chronic and recurring UTIs.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection, usually caused by one of many bacteria, that enter into the urethra and cause inflammation and other related conditions in the bladder, tract, or even the kidneys. While they are most typically contained to the bladder or upper urinary tract, they can also spread to any part of the system and, once reaching the kidneys, lead to several complications.
Causes of UTIs
Women are more likely to have UTIs for several reasons, and these are also causes of recurring UTIs, especially in females.
- Kidney and bladder stones can lead to a urinary tract infection.
- Bacteria can enter into the urethra during intercourse.
- The urethra in women is shorter than in men, giving bacteria a shorter entrance point before taking root.
- Menopause can cause changes to estrogen levels, which can lead to the sort of imbalance that helps bacteria thrive in the urinary tract.
- Use of spermicides, and especially related to diaphragms, increases the risk of developing a UTI.
- Problems with incontinence, sometimes related to pregnancy, can lead to development of a UTI.
- Prolonged bedrest and reduced mobility, whether due to another medical condition or an injury, promotes the spread of bacteria, especially in the urinary tract.
- An abnormality of the kidneys, bladder, or uterus at birth can lead to issues with the urinary tract that maximize risk of chronic and recurring UTIs.
- A history of cancer in any part of the abdomen or pelvis increases the chance of recurring UTIs.
- Neurological conditions that reduce bladder and kidney functionality can cause recurring UTIs.
These are just a few of the more common causes of the issue, with several other risk factors and causes possible. A doctor will want to take an extensive medical history to help determine what could be the culprit.
Identifying recurrent UTIs
Two tests in particular can help lead to a diagnosis of recurrent UTIs, aside from the general pelvic exams and medical history. First, the physician will request a urine sample and take a culture, in which any bacteria present will be allowed to grow (for identification purposes). This must be documented twice before a recurrent condition can be diagnosed. On top of that, most physicians will want to do a post-void residual check, which means evaluating the amount of urine left in the bladder after urination. Those with high amounts of urine remaining may have other underlying issues.
Treatment for recurrent UTIs
Several treatments may be suggested prior to determining surgery is the right solution, depending on the circumstances. For example:
- Many women find that recurring UTIs occur after sexual intercourse. One way to help reduce the likelihood of developing an infection is to urinate directly after intercourse. This helps dispel any bacteria that has entered the urethra. A doctor may also offer an advanced prescription to be turned in that can be taken immediately after intercourse to assure an infection doesn’t ensue.
- Others may find that they aren’t sure of the inciting incident but recognize the symptoms early on. In this case, the patient may choose to use the same preemptive method, having a recurring prescription for the physician to fill at the earliest signs of a UTI, typically a low dose antibiotic on a three day course.
- An additional option is to take low dose antibiotics over a long period of time – up to six months – to reduce the susceptibility to infection.
- If the cause seems to be linked to inability to empty the bladder, it may be important to change certain habits, including eliminating certain medications or even learning self catheterization in order to completely void urine from the bladder.
In some cases, the frequency and recurring of a UTI could be due to some sort of obstruction or abnormality of the urinary system. For example, the presence of a kidney stone, a fistula (abnormal connection), or even damage from previous surgeries (such as improper healing from stitches and the build up of scar tissue) could be behind the problem. In these instances, it is quite common for a doctor to recommend corrective surgery, which typically remedies the issue. Of course, certain medications and practices can still cause a UTI, but avoiding triggers once the surgery is complete should significantly reduce the occurrence of infection.
A patient will experience less pain and daily disturbance, allowing them to function normally at work, at home, and at public social events. In addition, it might help solve other unknown issues that the patient hadn’t even noticed. Reducing the chances of a UTI also helps reduce the possibility of complications, such as developing kidney disease or even getting sepsis, since a constant battle with an infection can weaken the immune system, leave the kidney exposed to infection, and (with reduced kidney function) cause waste to leak into the bloodstream. Taking care of the body includes addressing health of all organs, and assuring that the bladder and urinary tract work properly is crucial to overall wellness.