Why Are UTIs So Common?

May 01, 2023
Why Are UTIs So Common?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect millions of people a year — mostly women. Learn why UTIs happen, and find out what you can do to reduce your risk of getting an infection in the future.

Every year in the United States, roughly 10% of women develop a urinary tract infection (UTI), and as many as two in three women have at least one UTI during their lifetime. Although UTIs are far more common among women (and aging adults), men can have them, too, and so can kids.

Offering island-wide care through our practices in Kihei, Kahului, and Lahaina, Hawaii, Medical Urgent Care and Physical Therapy provides state-of-the-art treatment for UTIs for patients of all ages and genders. In this post, learn why UTIs are so common, and find out what you can do to reduce your risk of developing one.

How UTIs happen

UTIs happen when germs (usually bacteria) enter your urethra, the tube that allows urine to leave your body. Once inside, these germs multiply and cause an infection inside the urethra or in your bladder, kidneys, or ureters (tubes that connect the bladder and kidneys). 

Women tend to have UTIs more often than men because their urethras are closer to the anus, a common source of UTI bacteria. The urethra is also very close to the vagina, which can serve as a repository for bacteria during intercourse. 

Women and men are both more prone to UTIs as they get older. In women, declining estrogen changes the vaginal membranes, making it easier for bacteria to cause an infection and spread to the urethra. For men, an enlarged prostate makes it harder to empty the bladder, giving bacteria more time to cause infection.

UTIs are also more common among men and women with diabetes as well as people who take long-term antibiotics or medicines that cause an increase in blood sugar. All these factors combined help explain why UTIs are so common.

Reduce your risk of UTIs

UTIs typically clear up with medication, but ideally, you’d like to avoid infections in the first place — or at least reduce their frequency. Adopting a few simple lifestyle habits can help.

Wipe the right way

After going to the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent moving bacteria from the rectum area into your urinary tract.

Drink plenty of water

Drinking lots of water helps flush out your urinary tract, getting rid of germs that cause infections.

Avoid restrictive clothing

Tight pants restrict airflow, and they can cause irritation in the genital area, too. Both issues can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

Skip douches

Douches, deodorants, and other vaginal “freshening” products can cause significant irritation and disrupt your natural pH balance, increasing your risk of UTIs. 

Pee when you have to

When you’re busy, it’s tempting to ignore the urge to urinate, but doing so comes at a cost. Holding back urine gives bacteria more time to grow and cause infections. Try to urinate at least every three to fours hours, or more frequently.

Wear cotton underwear

The commercials are right — cotton fabric really does “breathe.” That means moisture evaporates better, keeping your skin and genitals healthier.

Limit bath time or opt for showers only

Soaking in a nice, warm bath can be a great way to relieve stress. But it’s also a great way to dry out your skin and disrupt your skin’s protective barrier, too, potentially increasing your risk of UTIs. Switch to showers if possible, or at least limit your bath time to no more than 30 minutes.

Don’t ignore your UTI symptoms

Even a mild UTI can quickly spread throughout your urinary system, causing dangerous infections in your bladder or your kidneys. Seeking medical treatment at the first sign of an infection is the best way to feel better and prevent complications from happening.

If you have a UTI, we can help. Book an appointment online or over the phone with Minit Medical Urgent Care and Physical Therapy today.