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Risk factors of urinary tract infections

| Monday, June 12, 2017, 2:00 p.m.

Urinary tract infections are among the most common bacterial infections, but many people don't know what puts them at risk for the infections, says Dr. Shailen Sehgal, a St. Clair Hospital urologist. While women get them four times as often as men, both genders can get the infections, Sehgal says. Below, he outlines some of the risk factors.

What are some causes of urinary tract infection in women?

The urethra, which carries urine away from the bladder, is shorter in women than men and is closer to the rectum, predisposing women to get urinary tract infections more frequently than men. A shorter urethral tract makes it easier for bacteria to travel into the bladder after sexual activity in premenopausal women, and most UTIs in premenopausal women occur within 24 hours of sex. Using a diaphragm as a contraceptive increases a woman's risk of developing a UTI.

Postmenopausal women have different risk factors. Older women have less estrogen, which affects pH levels in a way that makes it more harder for bacteria like E. Coli to grow. Some postmenopausal women with recurrent UTIs benefit from topical estrogen therapy.

What are some causes of urinary tract infection in men?

Men's longer urethras help prevent bacteria from reaching the bladder. However, men have prostates, located between the bladder and urethra. Over time, the prostate becomes enlarged and can impair a man's ability to fully empty the bladder. When urine does not leave the bladder efficiently, it is more likely to foster infection. Bladder stones can develop and can cause perpetual UTIs. Bladder stones can collect bacteria, prolonging UTIs until the stones are removed. In addition, the prostate itself can collect bacteria and result in chronic lower UTIs.

What are some causes of urinary tract infection in both men and women?

There are a number of conditions that have no gender preference. For example, stones of the kidney and ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder) can cause UTIs in both men and women. There are a number of reasons individuals develop kidney stones, including a family history of kidney stones, dietary causes, and intrinsic diseases of the kidney or bowel. When infected urine cannot pass around an obstructive stone, bacteria can travel into the bloodstream, and result in a life-threatening circumstance. Other causes of UTI in men and women include conditions that suppress the immune system, neurologic disorders, diabetes, and bowel incontinence. Any foreign body that drains the urinary tract, such as an indwelling catheter, greatly increases an individual's chance of developing a UTI.

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