UTIs can recur in a large percentage of women, in fact as many as 80% of UTIs are reinfections. Doctors recommend drinking a lot of water, not holding your pee for too long, cleaning your genital areas before and after sex, changing hygiene habits and a change in contraception methods to prevent recurrence.
- What causes recurrent UTIs?
- What are the symptoms of recurrent UTIs?
- Why do they recur?
- What should you do?
UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) are very common infections which occur in the urinary system; these happen to almost 50-60% of women in their lifetime. These usually occur when the bacteria from the rectum, enter the urethra (tube that transmits urine from the bladder out of the body), and infect the urinary tract; it can also infect the bladder, ureters, and the kidneys. Bladder infections are the most common type of UTIs. UTIs happen to men as well but they are at a much lower risk; women are at a higher risk as their urethra is shorter (close to the rectum), making it easier for the infection to occur. UTIs recur in almost 20-30% of women.
According to studies, as many as 80% of UTIs are reinfections and they can recur within three months. A paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology defines recurrent UTIs (rUTIs) as an infection that occurs either at least three times in a year or twice in 6 months.
In India, research points out that UTIs are the most common bacterial infections seen in primary care, and women of reproductive age, between 15-44, are most vulnerable to them. A study conducted in Tamil Nadu found that UTIs were prevalent in more than 20% of women, and said that early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the chances of developing further complications and assuage the suffering of the patient.
According to studies, as many as 80% of UTIs are reinfections and they can recur within three months.
What causes recurrent UTIs?
UTIs are caused by Escherichia coli (E-Coli), an organism that lives in the intestinal system. Studies say that rUTIs are mainly caused by reinfection by the same pathogen, and frequent sexual intercourse is a big risk factor for recurring infection.
(pathogen: bacteria or other disease causing microorganisms)
What are the symptoms of recurrent UTIs?
- Urge to pee frequently
- Cloudy and strong smelly urine
- Blood in the urine or coloured urine
- Burning sensation while peeing
- Fever and chills
- Pain in the abdomen
Why do they recur?
Recurrence of UTIs happens because of incomplete treatment or re-infection. A UTI that keeps coming back or doesn’t respond to treatment is called chronic UTI. Doctors say it can happen if women aren’t wiping properly; women should wipe from front to back, and not from back to front. Secondly, a shorter urethra makes it easier for the infection to enter and spread. The use of spermicides and diaphragm have also been linked with recurring UTIs.
A UTI that keeps coming back or doesn’t respond to treatment is called chronic UTI. Doctors say it can happen if women aren’t wiping properly; women should wipe from front to back, and not from back to front.
What should you do?
Experts believe that for long-term management of rUTIs, the focus should be on preventing relapse and recurrence. Here are some ways to manage rUTIs:
- Drink up: Drinking lots of water is the most common advice given to women who have recurring UTIs. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water can help flush out the harmful bacteria.
- Maintain a healthy BMI: Even though the association between obesity and UTIs is not well established, according to some studies, a healthy Body Mass Index is associated with lower risk of UTIs. Studies say that women with a high BMI of 30–34.9 were at a higher risk of UTIs. Another study says that the risk of UTIs in obese women increased by 45%.
- Wipe from front to back after urination
- Cranberry Juice: It is commonly used as a home remedy for UTIs. There isn’t enough evidence to support the theory that cranberry juice is helpful in prevention or treatment of UTIs, but a study found out that D-mannose powder, which is present in cranberry juice, reduced the risk of recurrent UTIs.
- Estrogen therapy: When women are experiencing perimenopause or menopause, their estrogen level falls, putting them at a higher risk of UTIs. Doctors recommend topical estrogen to post-menopausal women who suffer from recurring UTIs. It helps in maintaining the vaginal pH balance and prevent infection.
- Cleaning your genital areas before and after sex also reduces the risk of infection.
- Not holding your pee for too long, and peeing after sexual intercourse helps in avoiding UTIs.
If women notice the symptoms of UTIs, they should visit a doctor, who can prescribe antibiotics which are usually effective unless it is a complex infection. Doctors also recommend changing hygiene habits or birth control to prevent re-infection.
It is extremely important to treat UTIs timely; if a bladder infection is not treated, it can cause a far more serious kidney infection, and even kidney damage. When you go to a doctor, they will ask about your medical history, conduct a physical exam and a urinalysis (urine test) for diagnosis.
It is extremely important to treat UTIs timely; if a bladder infection is not treated, it can cause a far more serious kidney infection, and even kidney damage. When you go to a doctor, they will ask about your medical history, conduct a physical exam and a urinalysis (urine test) for diagnosis. In cases of recurring UTIs, additional tests like a cystoscopy (exam of the bladder and urethra using a bladder scope) or a CT scan may be administered. A recurring UTI can be a symptom of genetic predisposition, kidney or bladder stones, or an abnormal urinary tract shape.
- Urethra. Encyclopedia Britannica
- Study on urinary tract infection among females of reproductive age group in a rural area of Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu. Muthulakshmi M., Gopalakrishnan S.
- Recurrent urinary tract infections in women: How promising is the use of probiotics? Varsha Gupta, Deepika Nag, Pratibha Garg. Department of Microbiology, Government Medical College Hospital, Chandigarh, India
- Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review. Ahmed Al-Badr1, and Ghadeer Al-Shaikh
- Non-surgical management of recurrent urinary tract infections in women. Paul A. Bergamin and Anthony J. Kiosoglous
- Obesity as a Risk Factor for Urinary Tract Infection in Children. William R. Grier, BS, Panagiotis Kratimenos, MD, Sabina Singh, MD, John P. Guaghan, MS, PhD, MBA, Ioannis Koutroulis, MD
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