Urinary tract infections are caused by germs, usually bacteria (often E. coli) that enter the urethra and then the bladder. This can lead to infection, most commonly in the bladder itself, which can spread to the kidneys.
We all have bacteria that normally live harmlessly in the bowel, but if they are left on the skin around the back passage they can sometimes travel to the urethra, especially in women because those two openings are so close together.
NB: Women and girls – when you go to the toilet, learn to wipe from the front of your genitals to the back, so as not to carry bacteria to the front.
Women also tend to get Persistent UTIs more often than men because their urethra is shorter and closer to the back passage than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sex or when inserting a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause and pregnancy also increases the risk of Persistent UTIs.
Between 3 and 5% of women have ongoing, recurrent urinary tract infections.
However, certain conditions increase the risk of men and women having Persistent UTIs:
- ageing, especially for people with common illnesses and conditions seen in older adults, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia)
- an inability to empty the bladder completely (urinary retention)
- bowel incontinence
- an enlarged prostate, constipation or anything that blocks the flow of urine
- kidney stones
- a sedentary lifestyle or forced immobility after a health problem
- surgery or other intervention involving the urinary tract
Around 80% of persistent UTIs are actually reinfections, and can occur several weeks after antibiotic treatment has cleared up the original episode.
Persistent UTI due to relapse is less common and can be due to treatment failure, particularly in kidney infection; typically, it occurs within 2 weeks of treatment of the first episode. It may also be due to obstructions such as kidney stones, structural abnormalities or, in men, chronic prostatitis.
Cystitis, or bladder infection, is the most common UTI, and occurs in men only infrequently. In most cases, the infection is brief and acute and only the surface of the bladder is infected, but if the infection becomes persistent or chronic, interior layers of the bladder may be harmed.
If recurrent cystitis fails to respond to antibiotics, a urine test is the next step. If that doesn’t help, you may need to have other tests, such as X-ray, an ultrasound scan, or a cystoscopy – where a tiny fibre-optic camera is used to examine your bladder. Read more at Cystitis
These are all procedures that Somerset Urology are happy to carry out for you, to help you beat persistent UTIs.