Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common medical complaint. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of women will have a UTI at some time in their lives. Also called bladder infections or cystitis, a UTI occurs when bacteria enter the bladder, usually through the urethra (urine tube), and begin to multiply.
Your urine typically doesn’t contain bacteria (germs). Urine is a byproduct of our filtration system—the kidneys. When waste products and excess water is removed from your blood by the kidneys, urine is created. Normally, urine moves through your urinary system without any contamination. However, bacteria can get into the urinary system from outside of the body, causing problems like infection and inflammation. This is a urinary tract infection (UTI).
What is the urinary tract?
The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the body’s liquid waste products. The urinary tract includes the following parts:
Kidneys: These small organs are located on back of your body, just above the hips. They are the filters of your body — removing waste and water from your blood. This waste becomes urine.
Ureters: The ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to your bladder.
Bladder: A sac-like container, the bladder stores your urine before it leaves the body.
Urethra: This tube carries the urine from your bladder to the outside of the body.
How common are urinary tract infections (UTIs)?
Urinary tract infections are very common, occurring in 1 out of 5 women sometime in their lifetime. Though UTIs are common in women, they can also happen to men, older adults and children. 1 to 2% of children develop urinary tract infections. Each year, 8 million to 10 million visits to doctors are for urinary tract infections.
Who gets urinary tract infections (UTIs)?
Anyone can get a urinary tract infection, but they are more common in women. This is because the urethra (tube that carries urine out of the body) in females is shorter and closer to the anus, where E. coli bacteria are common. Older adults also are at higher risk for developing cystitis. This increased risk may be due to incomplete emptying of the bladder. There are several medical conditions that can be related to this, including an enlarged prostate or a bladder prolapse (a condition where the bladder falls or slips out of its usual position).
If you get frequent urinary tract infections, your healthcare provider may do tests to check for other health problems — such as diabetes or an abnormal urinary system—that may be contributing to your infections. People with frequent UTIs are occasionally given low-dose antibiotics for a period of time to prevent the infection from coming back. This cautious approach to treating frequent UTIs is because your body can develop a resistance to the antibiotic and you can get other types of infections, such as C. diff colitis. This practice is used very infrequently.
Can A Man Get Urinary tract infections (UTIs) From A Woman?
No, urinary tract infections are not sexually transmitted and are not contagious. This implies that a woman with a UTI will not transmit the infection to her male partner even if they had sex. 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.
How does a man get a UTI?
Although urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in women, men can get them, too. They occur when bacteria build up somewhere along your urinary tract. In men, UTIs can develop in the urethra (the tube that runs from the opening at the tip of the penis to the bladder), the bladder, the prostate, or the kidney.
How to prevent UTIs
UTIs can’t always be avoided, but it’s possible to reduce your risk of getting one. Here are nine prevention methods that may help you sidestep a UTI;
Drink water: Stay hydrated throughout the day. This will make you pee more frequently, which flushes bacteria out of your urinary tract. Water is the best choice. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses per day. If it’s hard for you to drink that much water, you can also increase your fluid intake by drinking sparkling water, decaffeinated herbal tea, milk, or smoothies made with fruits and vegetables. Try to limit or avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which may irritate the bladder.
Avoid holding urine: Holding in your urine, as this can encourage bacterial growth. Try not to wait more than 3 to 4 hours to pee, and completely empty your bladder each time. This is even more important if you’re pregnant as pregnancy puts you at an increased risk for a UTI. Holding your pee can further increase the risk.
Urinate before sex: Sexual activity increases the chances of getting a UTI, especially if you’re a woman. That’s because bacteria can easily get into the urethra during sex. To reduce your risk, pee immediately before and after sex. The idea is to flush out bacteria that may cause UTIs. It’s also a good idea to gently wash your genital area before sex. This can help keep the area clean and reduce the chance of bacteria spreading to your urethra.
Probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms that can increase good gut bacteria. They may also help promote the growth of good bacteria in the urinary tract. This could help protect you from getting a UTI. Generally, Lactobacilli strains have been associated with less frequent UTIs.
Cranberries: These are a traditional home remedy for preventing UTIs. The berry has compounds called proanthocyanidins that may prevent E.coli from adhering to tissues in the urinary tract. It’s also thought that vitamin C in cranberries may increase the acidity of urine, which might reduce overgrowth of bad bacteria. Scientific research shows conflicting results. Some studies have found that cranberry extract reduces the frequency of UTIs, while others haven’t found the same effect. Though it’s not clear if cranberries can prevent UTIs, it’s a low-risk remedy. If you’d like to consume cranberries, opt for unsweetened, pure cranberry juice instead of sugary cranberry cocktails. You can also eat fresh or frozen cranberries.
Antibiotics: If you get UTIs that don’t respond well to treatment or keep coming back, your doctor might recommend a small daily dose of oral antibiotics. This can help prevent a UTI by controlling harmful bacteria. You’ll likely have to take the antibiotics after sex or when you first notice UTI symptoms. The drawback, however, is that prolonged antibiotic use can lead to antibiotic resistance, your doctor can determine if this is the right prevention method for you. SEE: Can Doxycycline treat UTI