Urinary Tract Infections: Risk Factors
Think of five women you know. Of those women, at least one will have a urinary tract infection (UTI) in her lifetime. Every year, over 8.3 million doctor visits treat UTIs. For reasons still being explored, women are more likely than men to develop UTIs.
A basic UTI occurs when bacteria from the digestive tract infects the urethra. Urine itself is usually sterile, but many factors can interfere with normal function and cause an infection. The follow are several common risk factors.
Menopause - Though there is still debate about the exact cause, many researchers believe that decreased estrogen levels can thin the walls of the urinary tract, making it more vulnerable to bacteria. Also, aging is associated with other urinary conditions, like incontinence. Such conditions can also increase risk for UTIs.
Abnormal Obstructions - Any obstruction of the urinary tract, from kidney stones to catheters, increases risk for contracting a UTI. Whether bacteria is introduced to the body through a foreign object (like a catheter) or simply not able to be properly flushed out through an obstruction (like a kidney stone), UTIs are much more likely to occur in those with interrupted flow.
Sexual Activity - Several studies have shown that women who regularly use a diaphragm as contraception have high rates of UTIs. Frequent or recent sexual activity is often a contributing factor to a UTI, but UTIs are NOT sexually transmitted infections.
Understanding the risk of contracting a UTI is the first step in both prevention and treatment. If you have any of the symptoms of a UTI (painful or frequent