Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

a common urological concern
for many women

What is a urinary tract infection?

UTI is a catch-all term for an infection that occurs anywhere in the urinary tract. For women, this includes infections in the kidneys (pyelonephritis, characterized by fever) or bladder (also called “cystitis,” with typical painful urination, frequency and urgency). We often use the terms “UTI” and “bladder infection” interchangeably.

How common are urinary tract infections?

UTIs are some of the most common conditions, and we see them in our office every day. Almost every woman will have an infection at some point in her life.

What causes urinary tract infections?

They seem to occur at times of hormonal or sexual change: a young teen starting her period is more prone, a honeymooner beginning to be sexually active, a woman going through or who has gone through menopause. The vaginal pH is very sensitive to estrogen and when that pH is out of whack, the bacterial balance gets off kilter and a UTI is more likely to occur.

UTIs also occur when the body is stressed, either physically or mentally. Stress weakens the immune system, and the normal barriers to infection are not as strong. Women who are going through a very stressful time (busy/stressful job, surgery, death of a family member) are more likely to get infected.

But, usually UTIs occur for no good reason at all. As women, we have naturally short urethras (the tube that goes from the bladder to the outside), and bacteria are always getting in there. If we are flushing them out and the local area is healthy, then we don’t get infected. When the system is compromised, we tend to get infected.

What is the treatment?

The basic treatment is a course of antibiotics. When a patient comes in with recurrent UTIs, we ask about fluid intake, sexual correlation, surgeries in the area, menopausal status, and other health issues. We do a thorough examination of the pelvic area, including measuring how much urine is left behind after voiding to make sure the bladder empties well. We also look at the urine under the microscope.

If someone has more than 3 UTIs in a year, then we will look more in depth: renal ultrasound to look at the kidneys, x-ray to look for stones, and a bladder scope (cystoscopy) in the office to evaluate the bladder wall. Sometimes a CT scan is indicated if there has been blood in the urine.

Some other causes of recurrent UTI that we are looking for: urinary stones, urinary obstruction, and although unlikely, bladder tumors. In thousands of scopes for UTI, Dr. Christi has only found a few tumors, but she is incredibly thorough to be sure she doesn’t miss one.

How can I prevent urinary tract infections?

Our bodies have natural immune barriers. If you are generally healthy, exercise regularly, do not smoke, and make an effort to take care of yourself, then the blood flow to your pelvis is good and that makes the whole area healthier and able to function normally.

In addition, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and to flush the bladder regularly will wash out any bacteria that are trying to enter the bladder. The bladder itself has a natural layer of glycosaminoglycans that protects the bladder wall from infection.

So drink your water, exercise to keep that blood flowing and to help manage stress, and eat lots of fruits and veggies. And hopefully you will be able to stay away from the urology office!

If you suspect you have a UTI, please call our office at 281.717.4003 to schedule an appointment.

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