A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection caused by bacteria in the urinary tract. This can occur in the kidneys (pyelonephritis) or in the bladder (cystitis). Women have a much higher prevalence of UTIs than men due to the position and shorter length of their urethra. This makes it far easier for bacteria to gain access to the urethra, and once there travel the shorter distance to reach the bladder.
Who has an increased risk of developing a UTI?
- Postmenopausal women, as they lose the protective effects of estrogen
- Women who are sexually active
- Women who use diaphragms or spermicidal foam, or whose partners use condoms
- Women with diabetes
- Women who have anatomical abnormalities of the urinary tract
How can UTIs be prevented?
If you have UTIs often, you may find that some of the following suggestions may help:
- Drink plenty of water to flush out bacteria. Drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry extract may also help prevent urinary tract infections.
- Wash your genital area every day with mild, unscented soap, then rinse and pat dry with a clean, soft cloth. Wash the skin around and between the rectum and vagina. Washing before and after sexual intercourse may decrease your risk of a UTI. Avoid using douches or feminine hygiene sprays.
- Change sexual positions to ones that cause less friction on the urethra.
- Use enough lubrication during sex. Try using a small amount of lubricant before sex if you’re a little dry.
- Urinate at least every three hours, even if you feel as though you do not need to. Urinate before and after sex.
- Wipe from front to back after bowel movements.
- Consider using a different birth control method, especially if you use diaphragms, spermicidal foam or condoms. Ask your health care provider about the many birth control options available today.
- Keep your blood sugar under control if you are diabetic.
Who can treat UTIs and when should I see a specialist?
If you believe you have a UTI, give us a call at 804.288.4084. Same-day appointments are available. UTIs can be treated by any of our OB-GYNs or urogynecology experts. However, the following individuals should consider seeing Dr. Tovia Smith or Dr. Megan Shannon, urogynecologists, who specialize in the treatment of UTIs:
- Women who have had recurrent UTIs (three UTIs in the past 12 months or two UTIs in the past six months)
- Women who have structural or functional abnormalities of the urinary tract
- Women who are diabetic
- Women who have had prior urinary tract surgery or trauma
- Women with incontinence requiring the use of pads or liners