Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are the second-most common infection among women and are very common among men and children, as well. For women in particular,, these painful infections, cause frequent, painful urination, are often recurring, meaning that many ladies have two or more infections within a span of six months.
Most people can easily treat a UTI with a course of antibiotics after a visit with their regular doctor; you can also go to urgent care for a UTI if you can’t see your provider right away, or you have extreme discomfort outside of normal hours. However, if you have recurrent UTIs, your healthcare provider might recommend further investigation to determine why the infection keeps returning. Thankfully, you can remedy many of the most common causes of recurrent UTIs through lifestyle and habit changes.
Simple Causes of UTIs
Serious health issues do not cause all UTIs. In fact, the majority aren’t. The most common causes include:
Dehydration. When you urinate, your urine effectively “washes” your urinary tract, cleaning out the bacteria that can lead to infection. If you aren’t drinking enough fluids throughout the day to pee six to seven times per day (that’s how often a person who drinks the recommended 64 ounces per day should go), then you could be stirring up trouble in your urinary tract. Try drinking more fluids to flush your system on a regular basis — and reap other health benefits, as well.
Not Urinating. Not urinating because you’re dehydrated is bad, but so is holding your urine for long periods of time. Some people see their ability to avoid using the bathroom as some sort of badge of honor, but it’s a bad habit. When you don’t go, the bacteria builds up and can cause infection. Even if you have the busiest day ever, take a few minutes to use the bathroom when you need to.
Unnecessary Hygiene. All sorts of female hygiene products promise to make you smell better “down there,” but the fact is, they are unnecessary and can lead to infections. Sprays, fragranced washes, and douches can all disrupt the natural bacteria balance and cause all sorts of infections. Gentle soap and water is all you need to keep the area clean.
Bad Hygiene. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some bad hygiene habits can cause infections, as well. One of the worst is the habit of wiping back-to-front. This practice can easily spread bacteria into the urinary tract. Always wipe front-to-back and wear clean, breathable cotton underwear. While fancy underwear might be sexy, it doesn’t always allow airflow, and the restricted airflow creates an ideal environment for bacteria.
Sex. Having sex in and of itself won’t cause a UTI, but not urinating after intercourse can contribute to a bacteria buildup. Sex can introduce new bacteria, but using the bathroom soon after sex can help flush it away and keep it from developing into an infection.
More Serious Causes of Recurrent UTIs
Sometimes, chronic UTIs have nothing to do with your habits and hygiene, but instead indicate a more serious health issue. Your doctor will work with you to find the cause, but some of the conditions that can contribute to UTIs include:
Diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of UTI for several reasons. High glucose levels can contribute to bacteria buildup, and some diabetics have trouble emptying their bladders completely. The longer that urine stays in the bladder, the more likely it is that bacteria will cause infection. Also, diabetes can also cause issues with circulation, making it harder to fight off infection.
Kidney or bladder stones. Kidney or bladder stones can cause blockages in the urethra that prevent urine from leaving the bladder, potentially causing infection.
Enlarged or infected prostates. This is rare, but men with prostate problems can develop chronic UTIs.
Regardless of the cause of the UTI, UTIs are usually treated with a course of antibiotics and instructions to drink plenty of water. For those with chronic or recurrent UTIs, longer courses of medication (in many cases, six months or longer) or additional imaging and testing may be necessary to get to the root of the problem. However, for most people, simple changes to daily habits can eliminate and prevent UTIs.
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