Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur more frequently in women because they have a shorter urethra than men, making it easier for bacteria from the anus to travel to the urethra. Aside from the female anatomy, sexual activity can also introduce bacteria into a woman’s urinary tract.
Women with the following conditions are at a higher risk of a UTI:
Factors that may promote bacterial growth in women include:
- Dehydration, which causes urine to be concentrated and helps bacteria thrive
- Holding in urine for a long period of time
- Nerve damage that makes regular and complete bladder emptying difficult
- Conditions that obstruct urine flow, such as a tumor, kidney stone
- Diabetes and other conditions that weaken the immune system to fight off infection
- Catheter use (tubes placed in the urethra and bladder to drain urine)
- Hormonal changes, which can encourage bacteria to spread
- Use of certain birth control methods such as a diaphragm and spermicidal agents
- Urinary surgery or an examination of the urinary tract involving medical instruments
- Sexual activity, which can cause bacteria to move from the vagina to the urethra
What are the complications of untreated UTIs in women?
If treated early, urinary tract infections do not cause complications. However, an untreated UTI can cause the following complications in women:
- Recurrent UTIs, especially in women who experience 2 or more UTIs in 6 months or 4 or more UTIs within a year
- Pyelonephritis (permanent kidney damage from an acute or chronic kidney infection)
- Preterm delivery or low-birth-weight infant
- Sepsis (a potentially life-threatening complication), especially if the infection spreads from the urinary tract to the kidneys
How can women prevent the risk of UTIs?
Women can reduce their risk of UTIs by following these preventative measures:
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day
- Do not hold in your urine
- Take showers instead of baths
- Minimize the use of vaginal sprays, powders, or douching to avoid irritation
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Change birth control methods if it is contributing to bacterial growth in the urethra
- Wipe from front to back
- Empty your bladder after having sex
- Use appropriate lubrication during sex
- Clean the anus and genitals daily to prevent the transmission of bacteria
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Does a Woman Get a Urinary Tract Infection Related Articles
amoxicillin/clavulanateAmoxicillin/clavulanate is a combination antibacterial medication used to treat various types of bacterial infections, including lower respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, acute otitis media, sinusitis, acute bacterial rhinosinusitis, skin and skin structure infections, urinary tract infection, and others. Common side effects of amoxicillin/clavulanate include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal distress, gas (flatulence), Candida yeast infection (candidiasis), diaper rash, Candidal diaper rash, skin rash, hives (urticaria), vaginal fungal infection (mycosis), vaginal inflammation (vaginitis), headache, and excessive platelet production (thrombocytosis).
What Is the Best Treatment for Urinary Tract Infection?In most cases, the best treatment for a urinary tract infection (UTI) is a course of antibiotics. Which antibiotics are prescribed depend on the type of bacteria responsible.
Bladder Infection in AdultsUrinary tract infections (UTIs) most frequently manifest as bladder infections. These are bacterial infections that affect the bladder or any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, ureters, or kidneys. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) most frequently manifest as bladder infections. These are bacterial infections that affect the bladder or any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, ureters, or kidneys.
Bladder PictureThe urinary bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis, just above and behind the pubic bone. See a picture of the Bladder and learn more about the health topic.
cephalexinCephalexin is a prescription antibiotic used for treating middle ear infections (otitis media), tonsillitis, laryngitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin infections, bone infections, throat infections, bronchitis, and bone infections. Common side effects of cephalexin include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, headaches, and vaginitis. Dosage of cephalexin depends on the type of infection.
Cipro, Cipro XRCiprofloxacin (generic name), Cipro, Cipro XR (brand names) is an antibiotic prescribed for the treatment of many skin, lung, airway, bone, and joint infections caused by susceptible bacteria. Examples include complicated urinary tract infections (UTIs), gonorrhea, chronic bacterial prostatitis, typhoid fever, chronic bronchitis, infectious diarrhea caused by E. coli, Shigella, and Campylobacter jejuni, anthrax poisoning, and TB (tuberculosis).
How Do You Get Rid of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?Learn what medical treatments can help treat your urinary tract infection symptoms and help you manage this condition.
How Do You Know if You Have a Urinary Tract Infection?Urinary tract infections can occur in both women and men. Learn the signs of urinary tract infection, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
How Long Does It Take a UTI to Turn Into a Kidney Infection?Failing to treat a urinary tract infection can lead to serious health problems, including kidney infections. If you have lingering symptoms, or recurrent UTIs, it is important to see your medical provider.
Why Do I Pee So Often?You went to the bathroom to pee just a few minutes ago. Now you need to go again. What's going on? Here are some possible reasons.
Levaquin (levofloxacin) AntibioticLevofloxacin (Levaquin -- brand discontinued) is an antibiotic used for treating bacterial infections of the sinuses, skin, lungs, ears, bones, airways, and joints. Common side effects are rash, intestinal gas, vaginal itching or discharge, headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Review side effects, drug interactions, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety information prior to taking this medication. Talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional if you have any questions about this drug.
What Is the Most Common Cause of Urinary Tract Infection?E. coli bacteria are the most common cause of urinary tract infection (UTI).
nitrofurantoinNitrofurantoin is a drug available in three forms prescribed for the treatment or prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Common side effects include loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and rash. Review warnings and precautions, drug interactions, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety information prior to taking any medication.
norfloxacinNorfloxacin is an antibiotic prescribed to treat a variety of infections such as UTIs, gonorrhea, E. coli, and others. Side effects of norfloxacin are nausea, stomach cramps, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, abnormal heartbeats, and photosensitivity (sun sensitivity). Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
tobramycinTobramycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic belonging to the aminoglycosides class used to treat serious bacterial infections, including bloodstream infections (septicemia), lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia), serious central nervous system infections (meningitis), intra-abdominal infections including peritonitis, skin and skin structure infections, bone infections, and complicated and recurrent urinary tract infections. Common side effects of tobramycin include neurotoxicity, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, hives (urticaria), itching (pruritus), and others. Do not take if pregnant. Consult your doctor if breastfeeding.
Incontinence in WomenUrinary incontinence in women is a common problem. Overactive bladder (OAB), stress incontinence, and urge incontinence can be treated. Learn more about the types of urinary incontinence, their symptoms, and treatment options.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra. E. coli, a type of bacteria that lives in the bowel and near the anus, causes most UTIs. UTI symptoms include pain, abdominal pain, mild fever, urinary urgency, and frequency. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics.
Bladder Infections: UTI Causes, Symptoms, TreatmentsUrinary Tract Infections (UTI's) can happen to anyone. Learn about symptoms, causes and home remedy treatments for bladder and kidney infections in women, infants, and men.
UTI Symptoms SlideshowBladder infections can be painful and often require medical treatment. Get the latest information on urinary tract infections (UTI) . Learn how UTI's are diagnosed in infants, adults, and the elderly.
Urinary Tract Infection QuizHow would you know if you had urinary tract infection (UTI)? Take the Urinary Tract Infection in Adult Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments for infection that can affect your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.
Yeast Infection vs. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)Candida albicans typically causes vaginal yeast infections. Bacterial infections typically cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). Thick white cottage-cheese like vaginal discharge characterizes vaginal yeast infections. Painful, frequent urination characterize urinary tract infections. Antifungal medications treat yeast infections while prescription antibiotics treat UTIs.