- What is UTI?
- UTI Symptoms – How to identify a urinary infection?
- Recurrent UTI Causes – Why do some people have frequent UTIs?
- Recurrent UTI treatment – How do I get rid of a recurring UTI?
- Preventive measures to stop recurrent UTI
- Radhika’s story of battling recurrent UTI
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a urinary problem most women face at least once in their lives. But if it happens at least twice in a span of 6 months or at least thrice in a year, then it is the case of recurrent UTI.
According to NCBI, around 50 to 60% women are most likely to experience UTIs in their lifetimes. Hence, it is very important for every woman to be aware of how urinary tract infections take place and what are its symptoms and treatment options.
To understand why women tend to have multiple UTIs, we need to know why and how UTIs take place.
What is UTI ?
UTIs are infections that affect different parts of the urinary tract – bladder, kidneys, ureter or the urethra. They take place when the bacteria present in our anus enters the urinary tract through the urethra (tube which takes urine from the bladder out of the body). These bacteria can then travel up the tract causing infection. This is why it is advised to wipe yourselves from front to back, when cleaning your vaginal area.
UTI Symptoms – How to identify a urinary infection?
You may have a UTI if you experience the following symptoms:
- Pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- Pain or feeling of pressure in your pelvic region
- Frequent urge to pass urine, often in small amounts
- Cloudy urine with a strong, unpleasant smell
- Blood in urine
Recurrent UTI Causes – Why do some people have frequent UTIs?
UTI is mostly caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) present in our colon. It is an important bacteria which keeps our colon healthy.
“When you open your bowels to pass stool, these bacteria have higher chances of spreading and entering your urethra to cause UTI,” says Dr. Payal Chaudhary, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital.
“But Genetic factors, multiple sexual partners and post-menopausal status also increase chances of developing UTI.”
Why most women develop repeated infections in their lifetime is still not known but their anatomical structure and certain habits make them susceptible to having recurrent UTI.
“Women have shorter urethra as compared to men that means the bacteria need to travel only a short distance from the anus to the urethra. Since the bacteria have easier access to the urinary tract of women, they experience UTI more often than men,” explains Dr. Payal.
“Our bodies have a natural mechanism to prevent these infections in the form of vaginal secretions. These secretions are rich in healthy bacteria that stops the E. coli bacteria from entering the urethra,” she continues.
If anything like daily habits affect these secretions, then the chances of getting multiple UTIs increase.
Recurrent uti in elderly female is at times caused due to the weakening of sphincter muscles around the bladder which help expel urine. As these muscles become weak, older women aren’t able to empty their bladder completely which allows some amount of urine to always get stored in it. This puts them at risk of having UTI.
Recurrent UTI in men – Recurring UTIs are less common in younger men but after 50 the chances of developing them can increase. Men who’ve had surgery in the urinary tract and who have used catheters for prolonged periods are more at risk of developing UTIs than others.
Recurrent UTI treatment – How do I get rid of a recurring UTI?
Most UTIs get treated by a short course of antibiotics in addition to some lifestyle changes.
Some of these changes include drinking lots of water daily, passing urine more often and completely emptying the bladder during trips to the washroom.
In the case of a recurrent UTI, a longer course of antibiotics is needed.
“Women with recurrent UTI are often prescribed preventive antibiotics which can be taken whenever the infection gets triggered. For instance, women who regularly develop UTI after having sexual intercourse find relief in antibiotics that can be taken after the act to prevent an onset of infection,” says Dr. Payal.
Preventive measures to stop recurrent UTI
“Along with antibiotics, following some simple steps go a long way in keeping UTIs at bay.”
Develop the following habits to get rid of recurrent UTI –
- Drink plenty of fluids: This is the most simple and effective way to stop repeated UTIs. As you drink more water and other fluids, you tend to urinate more often. In the process, the infection causing bacteria gets flushed out of your body.
“If you urinate less, the urine will get stored in your bladder and act as a breeding ground for the bacteria.”
- Wipe only from front to back, not vice-versa: Always wipe your private parts with a clean toilet paper whenever you go to the washroom. The motion should be ‘from front (near your urethra) to the back’. “Many women wipe from the back to the front which is wrong because by doing that, you can accidentally push the bacteria closer to the urethra and increase your chances of developing UTI,” remarks Dr. Payal.
- Maintain good sexual hygiene: As many women get a urinary infection after becoming sexually active, it is essential to develop and maintain good sexual hygiene. You should pass water and wash your vagina gently with warm water after having intercourse. This helps reduce the amount of bacteria present there due to the act.
- Wash your vaginal area only once a day: There’s a common misconception that washing the vaginal area frequently will help prevent UTIs. But it is actually counter-productive as it washes away the healthy vaginal secretions instead leaving you more prone to infections.
- Stop using soaps, shower gels and intimate hygiene products: These products tend to do nothing more than remove the vaginal secretions. Using them regularly may even cause chemical irritation and increase the chances of UTI.
Radhika’s story of battling recurrent UTI
Radhika (31) was just married when she first developed a urinary tract infection. She got successfully treated for it but just when she thought it was all over, she developed it again.
“After the first occurrence, I got persistent UTI symptoms after treatment thrice in a span of 8 months. Despite following good hygiene, I kept getting it again and again,” said Radhika.
She met Dr. Payal, who has a special interest in urogynecology. Dr. Payal performed a urine analysis to find out the bacteria which is causing the repeated infections.
After questioning Radhika and based on the test results, Dr. Payal realised that Radhika developed a UTI mostly after sexual intercourse. So apart from antibiotics to treat her UTI, she prescribed some preventive antibiotics that Radhika could take every time she has sex.
“I take the preventive antibiotic after intercourse and it has helped me a lot in preventing infections. I also ensure I drink at least 2-3 litres of water every day to push out any bacteria and follow the tips for vaginal hygiene to prevent any vaginal infections,” said a relieved Radhika.
Are you experiencing frequent UTI? Seek expert advice from Dr Payal Chaudhary, with whose editorial inputs this article was written. Dr Payal has rich expertise in obstetrics and gynecology, with experience of over 13 years in the US and India, and has quickly become a favourite among colleagues and patients alike!