Why Do I Keep Getting UTIs?
If you're reading this and earnestly looking for an answer, I am so sorry you have had to deal with this. UTI’s are incredibly common and simultaneously incredibly awful. UTIs are the second most diagnosed infection and account for about 8 million doctor visits a year in the US. They seem to never really go away which begs the question, why do I keep getting UTIs?
- UTIs are more common in women because the way your organs are situated.
- Once you see symptoms, it's important to treat it immediately.
- Avoid ever having this painful experience by helping your kidneys flush bacteria naturally with a healthy lifestyle.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary tract. This sort of illness can affect your urethra (urethritis), bladder (cystitis), ureters (Pyelonephritis), or kidneys (pyelonephritis). UTIs are caused by bacteria being where it is not supposed to be. Bacteria aren't usually found in your pee, however they can enter the urinary system from outside the body. When a UTI occurs, it begins mildly , could dissipate on its own or become rapidly intolerable. In the later case, the infection can spread all the way to the kidneys and in extreme cases lead to death if left untreated.
Anyone can get a UTI, but they are far more common among women. It's easy to confuse UTI symptoms with those of a bacterial or yeast infection, or kidney stones, so it's crucial to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
To answer the question “why do i keep getting UTIs?”, it is helpful to understand the basic components in your urinary tract. The urinary tract is made up of 4 main parts:
- Kidneys: These little organs are placed right above the hips on the back of your body. They are your body's filters, eliminating waste and water from your bloodstream. Urine is formed from this debris.
- Ureters: These are tiny tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
- Bladder: The bladder is a sac-like receptacle that retains pee before it exits the body.
- Urethra: This is the tube that connects your bladder to the outside your body, this is the location where UTI’s form
Unfortunately, due to biology women are more prone to UTIs because the anus (source of tons of bacteria) is located so close to the urethra (at risk of infection by bacteria). Older persons are also more susceptible due to comorbid health issues that relate such as an enlarged prostate or bladder prolapse (sorry for the imagery, it goes with the territory.) The biggest risk factor for UTIs is a UTI. Once you've had one UTI, you're more likely to get another. The National Kidney Foundation estimates that twenty of women who have had one UTI will have another. Thirty percent of that group will have another infection, and eighty percent of the third group will get recurrences. More than two UTIs in six months or more than three in a year are considered recurrent UTIs.
Other risk factors include:
- Sexual activity: Women that are sexually active have more UTIs than women who are not. Additional partners also increase the risk of UTIs
- Menopause: As the female body goes through menopause, many changes within the body take place. One of these changes is that the ph of the vagina changes. When this happens different bacteria may start thriving and cause a UTI.
- Urinary tract obstructions: Urine can become trapped in the bladder due to kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, increasing the risk of UTIs.
- Compromised immune system: When your immune system is not fully functioning you are at a higher risk for not only colds, but for all infections including UTIs.
The next step in understanding UTIs is understanding their symptoms. Probably the most immediate and noticeable symptom of a UTI is issues with peeing, and well that just makes sense. Typically if you have a UTI you will notice that you are having to pee far more frequently but only a small amount and this is accompanied by some itching, burning and/or pain. Pain and pressure in the lower abdomen, and vaginal irritation are red flag UTI symptoms.
However, when symptoms arise it is important to get a proper diagnosis before starting any course of action. Taking a medication that is incorrect for the job does far more harm than good. A vaginal bacterial infection or a yeast infection can also cause burning and irritation in the vaginal area. So seeing your doctor in order to quickly and correctly identify the issue is a great idea. If you notice blood in your urine, it could be a sign of kidney stones or a more serious bladder infection, so make an appointment with your doctor right away. Fever (typically above 99.9 degrees), chills and fatigue are also more severe symptoms of a UTI that you should be aware of.
Other possible symptoms of a UTI are:
- Side or lower back pain
- Cloudy urine
- Strong smelling urine
- Tiny amounts of urination/ not fully able to empty bladder
- Pain during sex
If you have recurrent urinary tract infections, your doctor may order testing to rule out other health issues that could be contributing to your infections, such as an abnormal urinary system or diabetes. People with diabetes can also be prone to UTIs because of the excess sugar in their urine. This sugar acts as a plentiful food source to bacteria. In order to identify a urinary tract infection, your doctor will do the following two tests:
1. Urinalysis: This test looks for red blood cells, white blood cells, and germs in the urine. The presence of white and red blood cells in your urine can suggest the presence of an illness.
2. Urine culture: A urine culture is used to identify the bacteria that are present in your urine. This is crucial to deciding the correct treatment.
If you still find yourself asking why do I keep getting UTIs?? One or more of the following three tests to check for disease or injury in your urinary tract might be a route to try:
- Ultrasound: Sound waves provide an image of the interior organs in this exam. This test is performed on top of your skin, is painless, and usually does not require any prior preparation.
- Cystoscopy: A specific equipment (cystoscope) with a lens and a light source is used to look within the bladder.
- CT scan: A sort of X-ray that takes cross sections of the body and is another imaging exam (like slices). This technique is far more accurate than standard X-rays.
Just drink a whole bunch of unsweetened cranberry juice. This old wise tale still floats around even though there is practically no evidence to support it. Yet, flushing your system is a way that some people find success in independently relieving their UTI. That being said, tons of cranberry juice definitely won't hurt you, but it might not help either.
The go-to treatment for UTIs is antibiotics. It's critical that you take the correct drug in the correct amount that you are prescribed by your healthcare provider. If your symptoms go away and you feel better, don't stop taking the antibiotic. It is possible that the infection will return if the full course of antibiotics is not taken. If you have a history of recurrent urinary tract infections, you may be given an antibiotic prescription to take as soon as symptoms appear. Antibiotics may be prescribed for other patients to take every day, every other day, or after sexual activity to avoid infection. Some commonly used antibiotics can include:
- Sulfonamides (sulfa drugs).
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim®).
- Quinolones (such as ciprofloxacin [Cipro®]).
Though antibiotics are the go-to treatment for UTIs we are still asking “Why do I keep getting UTIs??” As far as antibiotics go, they are a double edged sword. While they get rid of the infection, our body might become accustomed to them over time. Each additional infection evolves, it becomes more difficult to fight after use of medications to treat it. This is referred to as an antibiotic-resistant infection. As a result, your healthcare professional may recommend different treatments.
On the minimal end, this includes trying to homeopathically remedy the infection by drinking plenty of fluids, resting and eating well or “flushing” the system. On the extreme end, if the infection is severe enough to land you in the hospital, healthcare workers can employ intravenous antibiotics to quickly end the infection.
If we can skip the treatment step altogether that would be ideal. Usually with a few simple lifestyle changes this is totally possible.
- Drinking enough of fluids: Increasing your daily fluid intake, particularly water, can aid in the removal of bacteria from your urinary system. It is suggested that you drink six to eight glasses of water every day.
- Changing urine habits: Urination is an important part of the body's germ removal process. Your urine is a waste product, and you remove it from your body every time you empty your bladder. Urinating frequently can help you avoid getting an infection, especially if you've had a lot of UTIs in the past. This will be aided by drinking plenty of fluids, but avoid fluids and foods that may irritate your bladder. Alcohol, citrus juices, caffeinated beverages, and spicy foods are examples of these. It's also a good idea to urinate right before and after sex. This may aid in the removal of any bacteria that may have been introduced during the course of intercourse.
- Practicing good hygiene: Practicing good personal hygiene can help you avoid UTIs.
Women, in particular, need to be aware of this. Because women's urethras are shorter than men's, E. coli germs can travel from the rectum back into the body more easily.
It is recommended that you wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to avoid this. Additionally wearing cotton underwear or breathable fabric is ideal as it does not as easily retain moisture where bacteria can thrive. During their menstrual cycle, women should also be extra cautious to maintain cleanliness in order to avoid infections. UTIs can be avoided by changing pads and tampons often and without using feminine deodorants. When showering unscented soap or a ph formula vaginal soap is ideal. This article also gives even more tips to keep your vagina happy.
- Changing your birth control: Certain birth controls mixed with certain individuals can have a higher chance of acquiring a UTI. While the reason for this is known to relate to hormones, it is uncertain what the direct link is. Though if you have explored all other routes of trying to answer “why do i keep getting UTIs?” this could be the key. Other birth control choices should be discussed with your healthcare professional before you take matters into your own hands. Switching rapidly or discontinuing any medication can have negative side effects that you should be aware of.
- Using a water-based lubricant during sex: If you have vaginal dryness and want to use a lubricant during sex, go with a water-based lubricant. If you have a lot of UTIs, you might want to avoid spermicide. Basically stick to the rule of thumb that less is more when it comes to your vagina. The less scents, chemicals and other unnatural things down there, the better.
- Changing clothes frequently: Change your underwear. I think this is self explanatory, wash it too lol.
- Try a supplement: One supplement to try is D-mannose. It is a simple sugar that helps to interfere with the E. coli bacteria (the main UTI causing bacteria). It can prevent the E. coli from binding to the bladder wall and replicating,
I really hope you never need to ask the question “why do i keep getting UTIs?” after reading this article. As a woman who learned next to nothing about vaginal health until way later than should be acceptable, I am honored to be able to share this knowledge with you. It is important that all issues, especially those related to feminine health (though 2% of cases are men) are treated with care and no judgement. The stigma towards talking about issues like these only results in suffering and shame where none should exist. Best of luck, and if you want to share this with someone who might need it!
Written by Kiana St. Onge