Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can run the gamut from annoying and uncomfortable to downright agonizing — depending on the severity of your infection. You might have burning and itching, or an intense need to urinate, and even lower abdominal pain. And when these symptoms keep coming back, it's only natural to wonder why you have constant UTIs.
Things can get especially frustrating if you've been taking every precaution to prevent the infection from coming back. But the fact of the matter is, some people are simply more likely to get them than others. For example, "due to the shorter urethra [...] women are more prone to UTIs than men," Dr. Tristan Bickman, MD, author and board-certified OB/GYN, tells Bustle.
If you keep getting UTIs, you should definitely let a doctor know so they can suggest the correct form of treatment, which is usually a round of prescribed antibiotics. It can also help to consider how certain lifestyle habits may be playing a role in recurring infections, and make a few changes all in the name of feeling better.
Read on below for a few reasons why you always have a UTI, as well as what you can do about it, according to experts.
1. You Forget To Pee After Sex
UTIs can crop up after sex, but may be even more likely if you don't take the time to urinate. And that's because, as Bickman says, "sexual intercourse can [...] cause bacteria to travel close to the urethra and tract to the bladder as well."
That's why you'll want to make it a habit to use the bathroom afterward, in order to flush bacteria out of the urethra so it can't lead to an infection. And if you're particularly prone to UTIs, you may even want to take the time to cleanse the vaginal area. As Bickman says, "Cleaning after will wipe away bacteria so less will colonize the vagina and the urethra."
2. You Wipe From Back To Front
This one may seem like a no brainer, but it's actually quite common to accidentally wipe from back to front, instead of the preferred front to back. And that can be a problem for anyone, but especially so if you're prone to UTIs.
As Bickman says, "Wiping back to front can cause bacteria to get to the vaginal tissue and area adjacent to the urethra (the opening to the urinary tract system)," which can again introduce bacteria into the body, and cause a painful infection.
So the next time you're going to the bathroom, take a moment to see which way you naturally wipe. And if it isn't front to back, make an effort to break the habit and change your ways.
3. You Use Too many Cleansers
Sprays, douches, vaginal cleansers — there's a pretty long list of products that can go in and around your vaginal area. And while they're supposed to help you feel "clean" and fresh, all they really do is irritate the area and make you more likely to get a UTI.
"This can interfere with the natural biome and typically acidic pH of the vagina, which helps fight infection and predisposes women to UTIs," Dr. Chitra Kothari Mittal, PT, MHS, OCS, tells Bustle.
And the same may be true for soaking in a hot bath or using harsh soaps, both of which can cause "dryness at the opening of the bladder, allowing bacteria to enter and cause UTIs," Dr. Sophie A. Fletcher, MD, urologist for Sutter Medical Group, tells Bustle.
So remember, since the vagina is self-cleaning, it's just not necessary to use sprays or cleansers down there, not only for the health of your vagina, but also for your health of your urinary tract.
4. You Don't Drink Enough Water
"One of the worst habits that increases the risk of getting a UTI is not drinking enough water," Fletcher says. "Drinking water actively flushes the urinary tract. This pushes out bacteria in the bladder which can cause a UTI."
So if you keep getting UTIs, think about how much water you drink throughout the day. According to Mayo Clinic, you'll know you're getting enough and are properly hydrated if you don't feel thirsty, and if your urine is colorless or light yellow in appearance.
5. You Don't Pee Often Enough
If you're in the habit of holding in urine for long periods of time — maybe because you're too comfortable in bed and don't want to get up, or too busy at work and aren't making the time — it can increase your risk of UTI.
While momentarily convenient, holding pee for too long "leads to urinary stasis in the bladder," urologist Dr. Anika Ackerman, MD, tells Bustle. "Bacteria are able to accumulate and flourish causing a urinary tract infection."
6. You Don't Empty Your Bladder
It's important to pee whenever you need to, instead of holding it and waiting until later. And the same is true for completely emptying your bladder.
"Whenever you have the urge to go, it is important to empty the bladder completely to eliminate any potential accumulation of bacteria," Ackerman says.
Again, this will help flush out any bacteria from the urethra, and make it less likely that you'll develop a UTI.
7. You Don't Use Lubricated Condoms
While it's obviously great that to use condoms during sex, if you're prone to UTIs, you may want to make sure they're the lubricated kind. "Using unlubricated condoms during intercourse causes friction, which can lead to inflammation," Dr. Roberto Contreras II, MD, tells Bustle. "Inflammation can in turn lower your immune systems defenses and make you more susceptible to getting a UTI."
If any of these habits sounds familiar, it may help explain why you keep getting UTIs. But the good news is, it's often not too difficult to make a few changes to your routine, and lower your risk of infection.
This post was originally published on 3/22/2016. It was updated on 6/7/2019.
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