Why are women so much more likely to develop UTIs than men?

3 min read

Do women get more UTIs than men? Yes, here's why.

The anatomy of women's urinary tract compared to men's explains why women are so much more likely to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men

If you’re a woman, there’s a considerable chance that you will suffer from multiple UTIs throughout your life. If you’ve already experienced a urinary tract infection, there’s an even greater chance that you’ll get another one down the road.

These two statements have become common knowledge amongst women. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common infection in the United States,causing over 8 million people to visit the doctor every year seeking treatment.

Most people know that women get more UTIs than men, but why is that? The answer lies in the differences between a man and a woman's urinary tract. 

The urinary tract consists of four parts: the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra. When dealing with infection, the most common organ to be affected is the bladder. However, a urinary tract infection can refer to infection within any part of the urinary tract.

In order to understand the seriousness of a urinary tract infection, it helps to be acquainted with the different parts of the urinary system and understand how they function to protect our bodies.

The kidneys: The kidneys act as the filtering system in the urinary tract, disposing of waste products which are to be excreted in the form of urine. Have you ever had too much to drink and experienced back pain the next day? Well, this could be because your kidneys went into overdrive, trying to filter out all of the toxins (alcohol) you put into your body. Although we can live with only one kidney, thekidneys are vital organs and the loss of both would result in death. In extreme circumstances, bacteria that cause UTIs can reach your kidneys and lead to a more serious infection.

The Ureters: The ureters are the two tubes which connect the kidneys to the bladder. These tubes are essential, as they allow waste in the form of urine to pass from the kidneys into the bladder.

Bladder: The bladder is a hollow organ which is able to expand to store urine, allowing you to control how frequently you have to use the restroom. The bladder is considerably smaller in females because it occupies the limited space of the pelvic cavity alongside the uterus, according toinnerbody.com.  

Urethra: The urethra, approximately 4 centimeters in length in females, allows for urine to pass from the bladder outside the body.  You may have heard that females are much more likely to contract UTIs than males—this is because the urethra is much shorter in females. It is easier for bacteria to enter the urethra and travel up into the bladder when the distance is not as long. As the bladder is the organ closest to the urethra, it is usually the root of infection.

These four components make up the urinary tract, which is nearly identical in both males and females, varying only in the different urethra lengths. This one variation is what accounts for the vast difference in the number of men and women who suffer from UTIs;80% of diagnosed UTIs occur amongst females and only 20% of males.

Besides eliminating toxins in the form of urine, the urinary system also helps maintain the body’s homeostasis of water, pH, ions, blood pressure, red blood cells, and calcium. All of these functions are essential for a healthy body, and the regular diagnosis of UTIs has made it so they are not always regarded as serious infections. However, forming healthy habits and taking preventative measures can save you a trip to the doctor, and can keep your urinary tract functioning efficiently.

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