UTI Risk Factors

Researchers have identified certain factors that increase a person's risk of developing a urinary tract infection, or URI. Risk factors for a URI include such things as having urinary tract problems (such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate), having a catheter, and engaging in sexual intercourse. Other examples of UTI risk factors include having certain medical conditions (such as diabetes), using certain forms of birth control (such as a diaphragm), and menopause.

UTI Risk Factors: An Introduction

While doctors know the causes of urinary tract infections (UTI), they have a hard time explaining why one person will get a UTI and another person will not. However, UTI research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop a urinary tract infection. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.

Specific UTI Risk Factors

Researchers have identified the following UTI risk factors:
  • Being female (women are more likely than men to have a UTI)
  • Having urinary tract problems (such as an enlarged prostate or kidney stones)
  • Engaging in sexual intercourse
  • Adopting certain habits (such as waiting too long to pass urine)
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Old age (Elderly people are more likely to get a UTI)
  • Medical conditions (such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, or vesicoureteral reflux)
  • Taking immunosuppressant medications
  • Urinary tract abnormalities
  • Using diaphragms or spermicidal foam
  • Going through menopause
  • Having skin allergies to soaps and cleansers used in the vaginal area.
UTI Risk Factors: Gender
Studies have found that the rate of UTIs gradually increases with age for adult women. However, scientists are not sure why women have more urinary infections than men. Possible theories include the following:
  • A woman's urethra is short, allowing bacteria quick access to the bladder
  • A woman's urethral opening is near sources of bacteria from the anus and vagina
  • Sexual intercourse, although the reasons for this linkage are unclear.
UTI Risk Factors: Urinary Tract Problems
Any abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs or slows the flow of urine (such as a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate gland) increases the risk of an infection. Infants who are born with abnormalities of the urinary tract may develop UTIs, which sometimes need to be corrected with surgery. However, UTIs are less common in males.
(Click UTI in Men for more information.)
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