9 Major UTI Risk Factors In Adults
Urinary tract infections are quite common. Over 8 million doctor’s appointments in the U.S. each year are to deal with the painful issue.
Curious what puts someone at risk for a UTI to begin with? Well, I am going to show you 9 common UTI risk factors.
Remember, it is possible to get a UTI even if none of these risk factors apply to you, but it is significantly less likely.
1. Being Female
It may be unfair, but it is just the truth: women get more UTIs than men – way more UTIs, in fact. Here are the three main reasons being female is one of the #1 UTI risk factor.
- Anatomy: A woman’s urethra is considerably smaller than a man’s urethra. This means bad bacteria has a far shorter journey to make it to the bladder.
- Pregnancy: Because your uterus expands, it may block some of the normal urine drainage from the bladder, which leads you to a UTI. This is most common from week 6 to week 24.
- Menopause: On top of all these factors, menopause itself can make you more susceptible for picking up a UTI. This is largely to do with the lower level of estrogen. Then after menopause your bladder can actually shift, preventing complete emptying.
2. Sexual Behaviors
By nature, sex is often a culprit of UTIs. Due to the close proximity of the urethra to the genitals, any bacteria from each partner can easily end up entering the urinary tract. Anal intercourse can also introduce bacteria into the urinary tract more easily.
Things to limit a UTI after intercourse:
- Use the bathroom immediately following, so the urine can flush away any bacteria that entered the urethra
- Avoid vaginal intercourse immediately after anal intercourse
- Clean sex toys immediately
3. Birth Control
Before we fully leave the topic of sex, we should talk about one more related risk factor. Some methods of birth control can cause UTIs.
- Diaphragm: This method of birth control can change your vaginal flora and cause urinary obstruction – both of which can lead to a urinary tract infection. On top of this issue, a diaphragm can cause irritation to the vagina, which can up bacteria in the area.
- Spermicide: Whether you use spermicide jelly directly or spermicide-coated condoms, you are increasing your risk of an infection.
Of course, you should not ditch birth control entirely. Try different options to see which works best for you.
4. Abnormalities of the Urinary Tract
Just like any other part of the body can have genetic abnormalities, so can the urinary tract. Babies can be born with a wide array of urological irregularities that ultimately lead to easy contraction of infection.
Sometimes they even happen later in life (like the shifting I mentioned during menopause).
One of these abnormalities is a prolapsed bladder (when the bladder “drops” into the vagina). Another is diverticula (little bulges).
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5. Obstructions of the Urinary Tract
Whenever urine cannot leave your bladder properly, bacteria can build up. So it comes as no surprise that any sort of obstruction could lead to a urinary tract infection.
This can include kidney stones. But another common obstruction comes from an enlarged prostate – one of the only risk factors that apply to men. Also, if men get prostatitis, they are more likely to develop a urinary tract infection too.
6. Impaired Immune System
A weak immune system can come from a long list of difficult conditions including diabetes, HIV, or even cancers. What this means is your body is not fully capable of fighting off bacteria. Bacteria that may normally be too weak for your body’s own defenses all of a sudden takes over.
So if your urethra or bladder is exposed to bacteria (most likely E. coli), the chance of infection goes up quite high.
7. Antibiotic Exposure
Talk about a “Catch-22.” The #1 treatment of UTIs is a round of antibiotics. But too many antibiotics can actually lead to more UTIs. How does it work?
Antibiotics may be extremely effective killers, but they are not the smartest ones. They kill the bad bacteria and the good bacteria. You need that good bacteria to help prevent the growth of E. coli.
If you have frequently used antibiotics – or whenever you take a round in the future – make sure you take a probiotic to help balance you back out. And of course, only take antibiotics when you absolutely need to.
Further Reading: D-Mannose: The Antibiotic Alternative For Chronic UTIs
8. Using Catheters
Unfortunately, catheter use and UTIs have a strong connection. In fact, around 80% of people who get a UTI while in the hospital are getting it from a catheter.
And it is not because the catheter is dirty.
Even if every single sanitary precaution is used in your catheterization process, you can still wind up with a urinary tract infection. This is because simply having it inserted increases bacterial growth.
9. Holding It In
Out of all the risk factors I have mentioned, this one is probably the easiest to cross off of your list. Go to the bathroom when you need to go to the bathroom. It really is that simple.
People who hold it in are allowing any bacteria in the bladder or urethra to just sit there. The longer it stays, the more time it has to stick. Our body has a fantastic bacterial flushing system – so use it.
Ways To Lower Your UTI Risk
Now that you know the factors that lead to UTIs, you would probably like to know what you could do to lessen the odds.
First of all, talk to your doctor. He or she may have suggestions on ways to overcome these factors (operations, medications, etc.).
Outside of some of the lifestyle changes I have mentioned throughout the article, there are a few extra things you can do to help lower your risk of developing urinary tract infections.
- D-mannose: This all-natural supplement does a great job of treating and preventing UTIs. If you feel you have a high risk of developing this type of infection, you can add this supplement into your daily regimen
- Water: Drinking plenty of water is extremely important for keeping UTIs away. You need plenty of urine to flush out your bladder/urethra throughout the day.
Remember that simply because your risk factor is high does not mean you have to fall prey to this uncomfortable condition. Be aware and make lifestyle adjustments as needed.