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What Causes a UTI?

Large numbers of bacteria live in the rectal area and also on your skin. Bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. They may even travel up to the kidney. But no matter how far they go, bacteria in the urinary tract can cause problems.

Just as some people are more prone to colds, some people are more prone to UTIs. Men are less likely to get a UTI.

Some factors that can add to your chances of getting a UTI are:

Body Factors

Women who have gone through menopause have a change in the lining of the vagina and lose the protection of estrogen that lowers the chance of getting a UTI. Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs and have urinary tracts that make it easier for bacteria to cling to them. Sexual intercourse can also affect how often you get UTIs.

Birth Control

Women who use diaphragms have also been found to have a higher risk when compared to those who use other forms of birth control. Using condoms with spermicidal foam is also known to be linked to greater risk of getting UTIs in women. Women are more prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.

Abnormal Anatomy

You are more likely to get a UTI if your urinary tract has an abnormality or has recently had a device (such as a tube to drain fluid from the body) placed in it. If you are not able to urinate normally because of some type of block, you will also have a higher chance of a UTI.

Anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract may also lead to UTIs. These abnormalities are often found in children at an early age but can still be found in adults. There may be structural abnormalities, such as outpouchings called diverticula, that harbor bacteria in the bladder or urethra or even blockages, such as an enlarged bladder, that keep the body from draining all the urine from the bladder.

Immune System

Issues such as diabetes (high blood sugar) also put people at higher risk for UTIs because the body is not able to fight off germs as well.

Can UTIs be Prevented?

There are steps women can take to avoid UTIs:

  • Urinating after sex may lower the risk of UTI by flushing out bacteria that may have gotten into the urinary tract during intercourse.
  • Certain forms of birth control, such as spermicidal foam and diaphragms, are known to increase the risk of UTIs in women. Check with your health care provider about other types of birth control.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep well hydrated.
  • Don't put off urinating when you need to and don't rush to finish. Holding in urine and not draining your bladder fully can increase your risk of UTIs.
  • Wipe from front to back to keep bacteria around the anus from getting into the vagina or urethra.