"What About These Recurrent UTIs?" with Dr. Melanie Crites-Bachert (360phi.com)
When Urinary Tract Infections Keep Coming Back
Sometimes, urinary tract infections recur, or happen again. Find out why this happens and how recurrent infections are treated.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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A urinary tract infection, or UTI, occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and cause inflammation. The urinary tract consists of your kidneys, the tubes that go from the kidneys to your bladder, and the tube that carries urine to the outside when you urinate. Urine inside the urinary tract is normally sterile, but if any bacteria get in, it can cause an infection.
UTIs are the second most common type of infection that people get, accounting for 8.3 million doctor visits every year in the United States. When a UTI occurs more than twice in six months, it is considered to be a recurrent urinary infection. About one in five women will get a recurrent UTI, and women who have more than three UTIs are more likely to continue having them. Men can also have recurrent UTIs, but this is not as common in men as in women. In many cases men with recurrent UTIs have some type of urinary obstruction.
What Causes Recurrent UTIs?
Bacteria can enter the urinary tract from the outside to cause a UTI to come back, or a recurrent infection can be caused by bacteria that remain in the urinary tract after a previous infection. Symptoms of recurrent UTI in men and women include the frequent urge to urinate, burning pain or pressure, cloudy or discolored urine, and chills and fever. Children with UTIs are more likely to have fever without the other symptoms. Common conditions that can lead to recurrent UTIs include:
How Is a Recurrent UTI treated?
If you have recurrent UTIs, your doctor may send you to a urologist who specializes in diseases of the urinary system. Some of the ways that recurrent UTIs are evaluated and treated include:
- Testing.The doctor will want to take a urine sample to test for bacteria and white blood cells. It may be necessary to do special X-ray studies to see if there is an obstruction or stones in the urinary tract. A urologist may look into your bladder by passing a special scope through the opening into your bladder. This exam is called cystoscopy.
- Antibiotics for treatment.Normally UTIs responds very well to antibiotics, and you may only need to take medication for a few days. For recurrent UTIs, antibiotics may be needed for 10 days or more.
- Surgery.In some cases of prostate disease, stones, or other obstruction of the urinary system, surgery may be done to restore normal flow of urine and help clear up infections.
- Antibiotics for prevention.Some strategies to prevent recurrent UTIs with antibiotics include taking low-dose antibiotics for six months or taking antibiotics after sexual intercourse.
- Frequent urine testing.Women who have recurrent UTIs may benefit from testing their urine frequently with a dipstick that warns of any bacteria in the urine.
- UTI vaccine.Research shows that some women and children who get recurrent UTIs are lacking some proteins they need to fight infections. A vaccine may soon be available to help those people improve their ability to fight UTIs naturally.
Recurrent UTIs are common and there are many effective treatments available. Some simple things you can do to help prevent UTIs include drinking lots of fluids, keeping the genital area clean, wearing cotton underwear, and wiping from front to back after a bowel movement or urination. Drinking cranberry juice and taking vitamin C supplements can also help by making your urine more acidic, which decreases the growth of bacteria.
Urinary tract infections, especially recurrent UTIs, can be a serious health problem. If you know the symptoms, you can always get in touch with your doctor if you think you have a UTI.
Video: Urinary Tract Infection | How To Prevent UTI (2018)
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