Ask the Expert: Are You at Risk for a Urinary Tract Infection?

Posted on Jul 29, 2015

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Jonathan Lynne, M.D., MPH, Family Medicine, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation

Q: I’ve heard urinary tract infections (UTIs) are getting harder to treat. Why is this and who’s at risk of developing one?

Jonathan Lynne, M.D., MPH, answered:

UTIs are one of the most common infections doctors treat: More than half of women living in the United States will get a UTI. Urinary tract infections are caused by microorganisms—usually bacteria—that enter the urethra and bladder, causing inflammation and infection. UTIs are more common in women because women have a shorter urethra than men do. That means bacteria travel a shorter distance to a woman’s bladder.

Several types of antibiotics treat UTIs and, because of overuse, some have lost effectiveness in parts of the United States. In those regions, doctors see increased antibiotic resistance in fighting off these infections. The good news is that our general population in the East Bay doesn’t show a lot of antibiotic resistance in treating UTIs.

A urine culture reveals the type of bacteria causing the infection, which helps determine the best treatment and antibiotics to use. Once treated, most patients feel relief of symptoms — painful urination, burning sensation, sense of urgency to urinate — in three to seven days.

Older adults who have a blockage in the urinary tract — caused by kidney stones or an enlarged prostate — are at higher risk of developing UTIs. Women completing menopause also are at risk for UTI if they had anatomical changes after child birth. People with diabetes and those who are pregnant need to be especially vigilant, since UTI complications can lead to serious health consequences, including premature delivery.

Take these steps to reduce your risk of developing a UTI:
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Don’t hold it! Urinating frequently helps flush out the bladder.
• Consult with your primary care provider, urologist or gynecologist if you have suffered two or more UTIs over a six month period.

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