Chronic UTIs

About 1 in 5 women experience a second urinary tract infection, while some are plagued incessantly. In most cases, the culprit is a different type or strain of bacteria. But some types can invade the body's cells and form a community safe both from antibiotics and the immune system. A group of these renegades can travel out of the cells, and then re-invade, ultimately establishing a colony of antibiotic-resistant bacteria primed to attack again and again.

Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs, while others have abnormalities in the structure of their urinary tract that make them more susceptible to infection. Women with diabetes may be at higher risk, as well, because their compromised immune systems make them less able to fight off infections like UTIs. Other conditions that increase risk include pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, and anything that affects urine flow, such as kidney stones, stroke, and spinal cord injury.

Chronic UTI Treatment

If you have 3 or more UTIs a year, ask your doctor to recommend a special treatment plan. 

Some treatment options include:

Taking a low dose of an antibiotic over a longer period to help prevent repeat infections.
Taking a single dose of an antibiotic after sex, which is a common infection trigger.
Taking antibiotics for 1 or 2 days every time symptoms appear.

Discuss treatment and testing options with your doctor.

How to Prevent UTI Re-infection

You can prevent getting another UTI with the following tips:

Empty your bladder frequently as soon as you feel the need to go; don't rush, and be sure you've emptied your bladder completely.
Wipe from front to back.
Drink lots of water.
Choose showers over baths.
Stay away from feminine hygiene sprays, scented douches, and scented bath products - they'll only increase irritation.
Cleanse your genital area before sex.
Urinate after sex to flush away any bacteria that may have entered your urethra.
If you use a diaphragm, non-lubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly for birth control, consider switching to another method. Diaphragms can increase bacteria growth, while non-lubricated condoms and spermicides can cause irritation. All can make UTI symptoms more likely.
Keep your genital area dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Avoid tight jeans and nylon underwear - they can trap moisture, creating the perfect environment for bacteria growth.

Some Things to Talk to Your Doctor About

If you get a lot of UTIs, your doctor may consider:

A daily low dose of antibiotics, taken for 6 months or longer
Taking a single dose of antibiotics after having sex

If you’ve gone through menopause, you could ask about estrogen vaginal cream. After menopause, women have less estrogen in their bodies, which can cause vaginal dryness and make the urinary tract more vulnerable to infection. The treatment can help balance the area’s pH factor and allow “good” bacteria to flourish again.

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