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Urinary tract infections (UTIs)—where bacteria infect the bladder or, less often, the kidneys—strike nearly half of all women in their lifetimes, and many are infected repeatedly. While UTIs are less common in men, men are not immune.
According to the American Urological Association, urinary tract infections are responsible for over seven million doctor visits each year. Here are a few answers to commonly asked questions about UTIs.
What causes UTIs? The most common type of UTI occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra to infect the bladder. Women’s urethras are only about an inch long, while men’s are seven to eight inches long. The shorter journey to the bladder may explain why bladder infections are more common in women.
What should I watch for? Symptoms can include bloody or cloudy urine, strong urge to urinate frequently even with little urine output, painful urinations, fever or back pain.
How are UTIs treated? In most cases, a course of antibiotics can wipe out the infection. It’s important to treat UTIs because, untreated, the bacteria may travel from the bladder to the kidneys, causing a more worrisome infection.
What can cause repeat UTIs? Sometimes, there’s an abnormality that can trap bacteria, causing recurrent UTIs. “Repeat UTIs often occur when something is preventing you from emptying your bladder completely,” explains Anh-Hong Tran, M.D., a urologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Plano. “The stagnant urine gives bacteria a place to grow.”
For men, problems can come from an enlarged prostate that’s keeping some urine in the bladder. Women might see problems as a result of bladder prolapse. People who have had strokes, or have diabetes may also have problems, since they don’t properly sense when the bladder is full.
Along with incomplete emptying, blockages such as kidney or bladder stones, or diverticula, can lead to repeat UTIs.
How can I avoid UTIs?
If you think you may have a UTI, see your doctor. If you need a referral to a physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White - Plano, call 1-800-4BAYLOR.
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