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8 Ways to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Urinary Tract Infection Statistics

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common type of outpatient infections, and there is a lifetime incidence in older women of 50-60%. The prevalence of this infection increases with age, and the rate doubles in women over 65 years of age.

It is thought that 150 million women worldwide have a UTI annually, which costs 4 billion pounds (6 billion dollars) in direct health care expenditure. Men can also get UTIs, and if the infection gets into the kidneys it is very serious.

My husband’s brother died this year from ignoring the symptoms and not getting the infection treated. If a UTI spreads to the kidneys, it becomes a more serious infection.

Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

Common symptoms of a UTI may include:

  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Very frequent urination
  • Feeling the urge to urinate despite having an empty bladder
  • Urine may have some blood
  • Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen
  • Strong smelling urine

Symptoms of a UTI that has reached the kidneys include:

  • Lower back pain or pain in the side of your back
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling like you have to pee all the time
  • Burning, pain or discomfort while peeing or just after
  • Pain or tenderness just below your stomach
  • Wetting the bed
  • Cloudy or smelly urine

Complications of a UTI are rare if it is treated with an antibiotic after a urine sample is tested.


UTI Risk Factors

The risk factors are more focused on women, and they include:

  • Woman's urethra is shorter than mens, so bacteria has less distance to travel to the bladder
  • Being sexually active places you at a higher risk, or even having a new sexual partner increases the risk
  • Using a diaphragm or a spermicidal agent can increase risk
  • Following menopause there is less circulating estrogen, which increases risk
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Complications of a UTI may include:

  • Repeated infections, which means you have two or more UTIs within six months or three or more within a year. Women are especially prone to having repeated infections.
  • Permanent kidney damage from a kidney infection due to an untreated UTI.
  • Delivering a low birth weight or premature infant when a UTI occurs during pregnancy.
  • A narrowed urethra in men from having repeated infections of the urethra.
  • Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. This is a risk especially if the infection travels up the urinary tract to the kidneys.

Preventing UTIs

There are several ways to lower your risk of UTIs:

  1. Drink plenty of liquid, particularly water as this dilutes the urine and allows bacteria to be flushed from the system
  2. Try drinking cranberry juice as it may help prevent a UTI
  3. Women must carefully wipe from the front to the back after a bowel movement
  4. Empty your bladder soon after having sex and drink a full glass of water
  5. Avoid using potentially irritating feminine products, like deodorant sprays, douches and powders
  6. “Change your birth control method as a diaphragm,unlubricated condoms or condoms treated with spermicide can contribute to bacterial growth”
  7. Consider taking a probiotic to encourage the growth of good bacteria.
  8. Consider taking D-Mannose, a supplement that sticks to bladder receptors that normally attract the E coli bacteria.

Some people are at higher risk of getting a UTI. UTIs are more common in females because their urethras are shorter and closer to the rectum. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.

Other factors that can increase the risk of UTIs:

  • A previous UTI
  • Sexual activity
  • Changes in the bacteria that live inside the vagina, or vaginal flora. For example, menopause or the use of spermicides can cause these bacterial changes.
  • Pregnancy
  • Age (older adults and young children are more likely to get UTIs)
  • Structural problems in the urinary tract, such as enlarged prostate
  • Poor hygiene, for example, in children who are potty-training

Urinary Tract Infection Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Urinary Tract Infections in Senior Citizens

There is research that shows over 10% of women over age 65 will have a UTI this year, and over 30% of women over 85 will have a UTI.

You may be more likely to get a UTI if you take certain medications, have had radiation or surgery on your pelvis, use a catheter or if you have diabetes.

Confusion or disorientation has UTIs in senior citizens, however, confusion alone does not point to a UTI. The mother of my daughter-in-law is diabetic, in her mid 80s and has had numerous UTIs. She has become confused on a couple of occasions with a UTI. She is hospitalized, treated and then returns to her normal state.

Mayo Clinic Minute: Treating Urinary Tract Infections

Final Thoughts

UTIs are typically treated with an antibiotic. Usually E Coli is the bacteria, which grows normally in the bowel. It becomes more serious when it is left untreated or with a senior that has had a serious of these infections.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Pamela Oglesby

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