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UTI Risk Factors, Complications & Diagnosis

If you think you have a urinary tract infection, please contact your healthcare professional immediately. The information in this article is not meant to replace medical advice.
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Anyone can be prone to developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) but it is important to know that as an intermittent catheter (IC) user, the chances of getting a UTI are greater.

This means you'll need to be extra careful when self-cathing, especially with practicing good hygiene.

Both men and women are at risk for getting a UTI, underlying risk factors can include:

  • Blockages in the urinary tract. Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate in men, can trap urine in the bladder and create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
  • Having a compromised immune system. Diabetes, autoimmune diseases or chronic illnesses that suppress the immune system can affect the body's ability to defend against bacteria. Taking medication that may impair the immune system can also increase your risk of infection.

Women are also more likely than men to develop a UTI, mainly due to differences between the male and female anatomy. In general, women get UTIs up to 30 times more often than men do.1

Here are a few factors contributing to women's higher susceptibility to UTIs:

  • The female urethra is nearly 4x shorter than of the male urethra. The female urethra is much shorter and located close to the anus and vagina, making it easier for bacteria to travel from the urethra to the bladder.
  • Exposure to bacteria during intercourse. During sexual activity the female urethra will be introduced to bacteria. It is important to always empty your bladder after sex to help flush out the bacteria.
  • Different methods of birth control.Certain methods of birth control like a diaphragm can increase bacteria growth or using unlubricated or spermicidal jelly could irritate the urethra. Try using a water-soluble lubricant.
  • After menopause, there is a decrease in estrogen production which can make the urinary tract more vulnerable to infection.
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UTI Complications

While uncommon, it is possible for UTIs to progress if not treated in time or if treated incorrectly. An untreated UTI could spread from your bladder and create an infection in your kidneys. Complications may include:

  • Permanent kidney damage from an acute or chronic kidney infection, pyelonephritis.
  • Urethral narrowing in men (from reoccurring urethritis).
  • Delivering a low birth weight or premature infant for women who have UTIs while pregnant.
  • Sepsis, a potentially life-threating complication of an infection especially when the infection makes it to the kidneys.

If you think you have a urinary tract infection, or are suffering from any of these complications, please contact your healthcare professional immediately. This information is not meant to replace medical advice.

Getting Diagnosed with a UTI

If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Prior to an official diagnosis, it is common for your doctor to take a urine sample or culture to determine if you have a UTI. If you experience UTIs frequently, you may need additional tests or monitoring with an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan.

The initial test may not be able to distinguish where the bacteria is located so it is important to watch for symptoms like a persistent fever or pain in your upper back or sides. This may indicate the infection is in your upper urinary tract; your ureters or kidneys.

Don’t panic, stay calm but be proactive.

Remember, UTIs are common. With prompt and proper attention, UTIs can easily be treated. Don't ignore symptoms and once your UTI has been identified, follow your healthcare professionals prescribe treatment plan.

If you think you have a urinary tract infection, or are suffering from any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare professional immediately. This information is not meant to replace medical advice.

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References: 1. Foxman, B. (2002). Epidemiology of urinary tract infections: Incidence, morbidity, and economic costs. American Journal of Medicine; 113(Suppl. 1A): 5S-13S.

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