Risk Factors For Urinary Tract Infections

Your doctor's secretary has just phoned—the results on your urine culture are positive. Again. You can't help wondering, "Why does this keep happening to me?"

The fact is that some people are just more prone to developing urinary tract infections. Take a look at these risk factors and see how many fit your profile:

*You're a woman—One in every two women will develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point and quite a few of them will have a UTI more than once. The main reason for this is the fact of a woman's anatomy. A woman's urethra is shorter than a man's. This means it's only a hop, skip, and a jump for bacteria traveling from the urethra to the bladder.

Sexual Activity

*You're sexually active—Women who engage in sexual activity get more UTI's. That's because sex can irritate the urethra which then makes it more susceptible to bacteria. These bacteria travel from the urethra on into the bladder.

*You use a diaphragm and/or spermicides—Women who use either or both of these items as part of their regular birth control are more prone to UTI's.

*You're menopausal, or close to it—At this age, a woman's tissues become thinner because of depleted estrogen stores. This thinning of the tissues means that the urethra and the bladder are more vulnerable to bacteria.

Test Tube

*You have kidney stones—Stones or other types of urinary tract obstructions turn your bladder into a kind of test tube for breeding the bacteria that cause UTI's.

*You have issues with your immune system—Diabetes and other chronic immune system ailments can make you more susceptible to developing UTI's.

*You used a catheter in your bladder for a long time—The lengthy use of catheters in the bladder compromise the area and make it ripe for bacteria to enter and cause an infection.

Recurrent UTI's

Doctors are still exploring why some women get recurrent UTI's. They believe that the immune system may be part of the reason women get urinary tract infections over and over again. In women with compromised immune systems, bacteria find it easier to stick to the cells in the urinary tract. Healthy women tend to shed these very same bacteria from the bladder with ease. In general, if you've had three UTI's, you can expect to keep having them. If your doctor believes your infections are related to sexual activity, he may prescribe a single, prophylactic dose of antibiotics, just before or after you engage in sexual intercourse.

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