Urinary tract infections (UTI) are a common medical condition that can affect any person of any age. They develop when bacteria infect the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract.
Although anyone can get UTIs, they are more likely to occur in women. In fact, women are more than 30 times more likely than men to get a UTI, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Overall, more than 50% of women will develop a UTI at some point in their lives.
Among women, UTIs are more prevalent among older women than younger women. What’s more, older women are at risk for recurrent UTIs, which are those that occur over and over.
Why do recurrent UTIs strike older women? And if you’re an older woman, what can you do to protect yourself from UTIs?
The experienced care providers at Associates in Women’s Health in Cincinnati would like to answer your questions about recurrent UTIs. Here, we share a few facts about why UTIs sometimes plague older women.
UTIs develop when bacteria from your anus or vaginal area spread into your urethra, which is the tube through which urine leaves your body. When bacteria move up the urethra and into your bladder, a UTI may develop.
Left untreated, UTIs may spread to your kidneys, which is a potentially serious complication. UTIs can cause a range of symptoms, including:
- A desire to urinate more frequently than usual
- An urgent need to urinate
- Pain in the pelvic area or back
- Traces of blood in the urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
Women tend to get more UTIs than men because the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra. It is also closer to the anus. These two factors mean bacteria have less distance to travel from the anus to the bladder in women than in men.
Older women and recurrent UTIs
Women are more likely to develop UTIs during perimenopause and menopause. The main reason for this is a lower level of estrogen. As estrogen levels go down, your bladder and pelvic floor muscles may grow weaker. This can make it easier for bacteria to make their way into your bladder.
Once you have a UTI, there’s a chance you’ll get another one. In fact, some 40% of women who get a UTI develop another one within six months. This may happen for several reasons.
- As estrogen levels decrease with age, your body may become less skilled at fighting off infection.
- Even if you are treated with antibiotics for a UTI, some of the bacteria that caused the infection may remain in close enough proximity to your bladder to cause a reinfection.
- As you get older, the pH levels in your urinary tract may change, making it easier for harmful bacteria to stay alive.
- Older women have a greater chance of developing diabetes, which is a risk factor for UTIs.
- As you age, your sense of thirst may decrease, and you may drink fewer fluids. Drinking plenty of liquids helps flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
Protecting yourself from UTIs
Fortunately, taking some simple lifestyle steps, such as staying hydrated, wiping from front to back, and asking your sex partner to clean their genitals before sex, can help reduce your risk of getting a UTI.
If you do develop a UTI, your provider can explain your treatment options, which usually include antibiotics. In some cases, providers may recommend treatment with MonaLisa Touch, a gentle laser procedure that helps stimulate healthy collagen development within the vaginal walls.
For some women, vaginal laser treatment helps reduce or eliminate recurrent UTIs.
Have your UTIs evaluated
If you suspect you have a UTI, or if you routinely struggle with UTI symptoms, our care providers would like to help. To schedule an evaluation, call our office at 513-794-1500, or request an appointment via our online portal today.