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Approximately 40 percent of women and 12 percent of men will experience at least one symptomatic urinary tract infection (UTI) during their lifetime. Evaluation and treatment of UTIs may be slightly different for men and women; however our goal is committed to helping you understand, prevent, and reduce the frequency of UTIs.
Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. However, bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. A bladder infection is known as cystitis and a kidney infection is known as pyelonephritis. Kidney infections are much less common — but often more serious — than bladder infections.
Kidney infections often cause fevers and back pain. These infections need to be treated promptly because a kidney infection can quickly spread into the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening condition. UTIs are often categorized as simple (uncomplicated) or complicated. Simple UTIs are infections that occur in normal urinary tracts. Complicated UTIs occur in abnormal urinary tracts or when the bacteria causing the infection is resistant to many antibiotic medications.
Large numbers of bacteria live in the rectal area and also on your skin. Bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. It may even travel up to the kidney. But no matter how far it goes, bacteria in the urinary tract can cause problems. Just as some people are more prone to colds, some people are more prone to UTIs. Women who have gone through menopause have a change in the lining of the vagina and lose the protective effects of estrogen that decrease the likelihood of UTIs. Postmenopausal women with UTIs may benefit from hormone replacement. Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs and have urinary tracts that allow bacteria to adhere to it more readily. Sexual intercourse also increases the frequency of UTIs. Women who use diaphragms have also been found to have an increased risk when compared to those using other forms of birth control. Using condoms with spermicidal foam is also known to be associated with an increase in UTIs in women. Women are more prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder. You are more likely to get a UTI if your urinary tract has an abnormality or has recently been instrumented (for example, had a catheter in place). If you are unable to urinate normally because of some type of obstruction, you will also have a higher chance of a UTI. Disorders such as diabetes also put people at higher risk for UTIs because of the body’s decrease in immune function and thus a reduced ability to fight off infections such as UTIs.
A simple UTI can be treated with a short course of oral antibiotics. A short course of antibiotics will usually treat most uncomplicated UTIs. However, some infections may need to be treated for several weeks.