You can get a urinary tract infection (UTI) when bacteria enter and multiply within the urinary system. The infection occurs most commonly in the urethra and bladder but can spread to the kidneys if left untreated.
Women are 30 times more likely to get UTIs than men. This is because their urethras (the tubes that carry urine from the bladder out of the body) are shorter than men’s, allowing bacteria easier access to the bladder. Also, women’s urethras are located near the vagina and anus, which are common sources of bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, that cause UTIs.
Risk Factors for UTIs
Certain factors can put you at a higher risk of getting a UTI, including:
- Having diabetes, which can lower immune function.
- Wearing a catheter to drain urine, such as after surgery.
- Being sexually active, which can allow bacteria better access to the urethra.
- Having a condition such as kidney stones that blocks urine flow from the kidneys to the bladder.
- Poor hygiene.
- Urinary tract surgery.
Some risk factors are specific to women, including:
- Using spermicides, which can kill good bacteria.
- Using a diaphragm as a form of birth control.
You can take steps to reduce your chances of getting a UTI, such as:
- Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day.
- Peeing anytime you feel the urge.
- Peeing right away after having sex.
- Practicing good hygiene.
- Wiping from front to back.
- Avoiding spermicide use.
- Avoiding douches.
- Wearing cotton underwear.
- Avoiding skin-tight pants.
- Showering rather than bathing.