Urinary Tract Infection Risk Factors

Once again, you've received that dreaded phone call from your physician's secretary: your urine culture is positive. It's happening so often that you can't help wondering: "What's wrong with me? Why is this happening over and over again?"

The truth is that some folks are just more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTI's). Look at the following risk factors and tally up the number of factors that seem to describe your profile:

*You're female—one out of every two women is going to develop a UTI at some point in her life and many will have a UTI on more than one occasion. This is a structural issue. A woman's urethra is not as long as a man's. That means that the bacteria have only a short journey in getting from the urethra back up into the bladder.

Bacteria Entry

*You're a sexually-active female—Non-celibate women get more UTI's than those who skip the sex in favor of a good book. Sex is irritating to the urethra. Any irritation of tissue makes it more susceptible to the entry of bacteria. After that it's a given that the bacteria will make their way from your urethra into your bladder.

*You use spermicide and/or a diaphragm—Women who use these forms of birth control, either singly or in tandem, have a tendency to develop more UTI's. 

*You're menopausal, or almost—As a woman ages, her stores of estrogen decrease. Estrogen maintains the integrity of the reproductive tissues and muscles. As estrogen runs out, the tissues thin and become more prone to the entry of bacteria.


*You suffer from kidney stones—Urinary tract obstructions make your bladder smaller and more user-friendly for breeding bacteria of the type that are responsible for UTI's.

*You have a weakened immune system—Immune system ailments like diabetes or multiple sclerosis can make you more vulnerable to UTI development. 

*Your bladder held a catheter for a lengthy time period—Long-term catheterization compromises the integrity of the area making it ripe for bacterial entry.

Immune System

Some women seem to get UTI's all the time. Physicians aren't sure why this is so. It is believed that the immune system plays a part in repetitive UTI's.

In women who have weakened immune systems, bacteria have an easier time adhering to the urinary tract cells. While a healthy woman's body would have no trouble ridding her system of these bacteria, a woman with a compromised immune system is more vulnerable to infection.

If you've had three or more UTI's, you can take it for granted that you'll continue to have them. If your doctor thinks the UTI's may be related to sex, she may tell you to take a single dose of antibiotic just before or after you engage in sexual intercourse.  It also helps to urinate just after sex.

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