Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are frustrating enough. The pain, burning, urinary frequency, and inability to empty the bladder make for a miserable time. Even worse than a urinary tract infection is chronic recurrences despite treatment. Frequent recurrences can be demoralizing and exasperating. Rather than embarking on course after course of antibiotics, check these potential causes to see if there is another way to deal with repeated infections.
Kidney or bladder stones
Kidney stones are crystals that form into calcified deposits that may remain in the kidney or work their way into the bladder or urinary tract. A UTI can develop when the stone blocks part or all of the urinary tract, as this leads to the formation of bacteria in the backed up urine. These stones can be diagnosed by blood, urine, or imaging tests.
Bladder stones, although much rarer, can cause the same symptoms that lead to recurrent UTIs as kidney stones. Both types of stones are treated with some type of destruction, often using a laser or sound waves, or removal via surgery.
Having sex, especially with a new partner, puts women at risk for developing a UTI. This occurs because the bacteria from the male present on the urethra comes into contact with the female genitalia, allowing the bacteria access to the urethra, urinary tract, and even the bladder.
While intercourse has the potential to keep UTIs coming back, there are steps that can be taken to minimize this risk. Urinating before and after sex, cleaning the genitals before and after sex, and avoiding use of a diaphragm or spermicide are all ways to decrease the risk.
Decreased estrogen levels, especially those found in post-menopausal women, can lead to frequent UTIs. This is because estrogen has been found to increase the production of natural antimicrobial materials. Post-menopausal UTIs have traditionally been treated with antibiotics, but in many cases the infections recur after antibiotic therapy is completed.
Hormone replacement therapy may offer a reduced risk of infections, but this type of therapy has some risks associated with it and should be discussed with a physician. This is especially true in women with a history of breast cancer or heart disease.
Unusual urinary tract shape
When the urinary tract has an unusual shape there is the potential for the obstruction of urine and the development of bacteria behind the blockage. Depending upon the type of abnormality, treatment may range from catheterization to surgery. Regardless of the type of abnormality, it is important to know all the options available.
If UTIs are becoming a regular occurrence, it is time to look at treatments other than repeated courses of antibiotics. Talk to a professional to get a clear idea of the causes of the recurrences and the options available to treat them. Doctor Sherry Thomas is a seasoned urogynecologist who specializes in treating women’s health issues, including urinary tract infections. Contact Dr. Sherry’s office today to schedule your consultation. We can answer any questions you may have, and we can help determine the best course of treatment for you and your needs.