What It Really Means When You Get Recurrent UTIs

If you're getting recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs), you're not alone. According to the Urology Care Foundation, UTIs will affect 3 in 25 men and 10 in 25 women at some point in life. Medical News Today also notes that UTIs reoccur in about 1 in 4 women. Although they're more common in women, the condition can take a toll on men just as bad as it can on women — especially for men over 50 years old, per Medical News Today

It's vital to know what causes urinary tract infections to understand why they reoccur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UTIs usually arise when bacteria enter the urethra from the skin or rectum. The infection usually affects the bladder and parts of the urinary tract. A 2013 study published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal notes that UTIs are among the most frequent clinical bacterial infections and account for about 25% of all infections reported by women.

UTI symptoms include a foul smell, painful urination, bloody urine, lower abdominal cramps, and fatigue (via WebMD). These symptoms often go away after a few days of antibiotic treatment. But if the bacteria reach the bloodstream, it can be fatal, according to Healthline. This condition is known as urosepsis, which has a fatality rate as high as 40%.

Possible reasons you might be getting recurrent UTIs

Men, especially seniors, can get UTIs due to an enlargement of their prostate glands, limiting the free flow of urine (via Healthline). The more the bladder harbors urine, the more room it creates for infection-causing bacteria (which could have been urinated away) to gain a foothold.

As mentioned, UTIs in men are less common than in womenHarvard Medical School explains that women have shorter urethras, which means infection-causing bacteria can reach the bladder more easily. Cleveland Clinic adds that women get recurrent UTIs because of the urethra's proximity to the anus and the vagina. Bacteria from these places have easy access to women's urinary tracts.

Increased sexual activity might also cause recurrent UTIs. Thrusting during sexual intercourse can transport bacteria into your urethra and bladder, making you susceptible to urinary tract infections (via Healthline). According to Medical News Today, getting UTIs through sexual activity depends on the existing bacteria around your genital area and how sex can force these bacteria into your bladder. Given this, using sex toys without effective cleaning might cause an infection. The source also adds that having sex while you have an infection can slow the healing process and might cause another infection.

Recurrent UTIs might also be hereditary. A 2010 study published in the journal BioMed Research International established a connection between UTIs and genetics. The study noted various genes might increase the susceptibility of recurrent UTIs.

How are urinary tract infections diagnosed and treated?

Doctors need a firm diagnosis before recommending any UTI treatment. If you think you have a UTI, it's important to be upfront about your symptoms and sexual health. To diagnose a UTI, your doctor might request a urine sample which will be tested for germs and bacteria (via Stanford Health Care). If the results confirm an infection, your doctor might recommend antibiotics. However, antibiotics don't always work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urinating after penetrative sex, cutting back on sprays and powders around the genitals, and wiping from front to back (for women) can be helpful ways to prevent UTIs.

Healthline also advises taking cranberry products, like supplements and juices, to help reduce your risk of recurrent UTIs. Some other recommended home remedies include supplementing on probiotics and vitamin C, per Healthline. The source also advises drinking lots of water to flush out bacteria via urine.