Preventing Urinary Tract Infections -- By Conner Keyeski, APRN

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common outpatient infection in the United States. Women have a higher risk of developing UTIs, mainly due to their anatomy. Over half of all women will have at least one UTI in their life. The prevalence of UTIs increases with age, except for a spike in young women in their teens and twenties. The most common cause of a UTI is a bacterial infection, often Escherichia Coli (E-coli).

Bladder health is closely tied to gut health, so when there is a disruption in the gut microbiome it can put someone at a higher risk for developing a UTI. Antibiotics given to treat UTIs can further disrupt gut health, therefore creating a cycle of poor bladder and gut health. This can create recurrent or chronic UTIs, antibiotic resistant bacteria and systemic illness.

When determining causes of recurrent UTIs, it's also important to evaluate reproductive hormones. Estrogen has an important role in lower urinary tract health, so when changes in hormones occur, susceptibility to UTIs may increase.

In addition to bladder and urinary complications, recurrent UTIs can impact psychological health. Anxiety and depression can develop or worsen due to pain as well as inability to perform usual activities and sexual dysfunction. All of this can impact a person's participation in social activities.

Yet there are ways to prevent UTIs in the first place, including adequate hydration, maintaining proper gut health, and working with your healthcare provider to evaluate risks and obtain diagnostic testing if needed. Pelvic floor physical therapy can also be beneficial by strengthening muscles and evaluating surrounding structures.