Why do I keep getting UTIs?

12 min read

Struggling with recurrent UTIs? You're not alone. UTIs are the second-most common infection in the United States. Half of all women get UTIs, and 30-40% of women who've experienced a UTI will face one again in a few months.

Recurrent UTIs occur when new bacteria enter the urethra, or bacteria from a previous infection remain dormant and later re-enter the bladder, causing a new infection.

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Improve urinary tract health with Uqora

The key to breaking the cycle of recurrent UTIs is to kill old bacteria, prevent new bacteria from taking hold, and build up your body's natural defense mechanisms. At Uqora, we make products that do all three. Take Uqora Control daily to break up biofilm that causes recurring UTIs. Drink Uqora Target after sex or exercise to flush out any new bacteria introduced. And give your body an added boost with Uqora Promote—a probiotic designed to arm your body with healthy bacteria that fight the good fight.

What causes recurrent UTIs?

A recurrent UTI, also called a chronic UTI, is an infection that keeps coming back, even after treatment with antibiotics. These infections can happen anywhere from a couple times a year to multiple times per month. For the person suffering, it's endlessly frustrating. Each new infection means more pain, visits to the doctor, and rounds of antibiotics.

Once you get one UTI, your likelihood of getting another UTI increases.

The cycle is brutal and tough to break. Despite antibiotic treatment and otherwise good health, 26-44% of women will experience another UTI within six months after their first infection.

Bacteria can survive a course of antibiotics by adhering to the bladder wall and forming biofilm.

Recurring UTIs can occur for a couple reasons:

  1. New bacteria enter the urethra and cause another UTI.
  2. Bacteria from a previous infection hide out in the bladder and later emerge, causing a new infection.

Unfortunately, standard UTI treatments aren't always effective because bacteria are in a constant arms race with antibiotics and the immune system. They can adhere to the bladder wall and join together to form a protective shield called biofilm. Inside this safehouse, bacteria are hidden from the immune system. Even urine tests can fail to detect them, which is why so many people suffering from recurring UTIs will get false negatives when tested.

Biofilm allows these bacteria to live long periods of time inside our own cells, adapting and multiplying. And when future courses of antibiotics weaken the immune system, bacteria seize the opportunity and create a new infection.

 

Why do I keep getting UTIs
+ What is a urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infections are a common bacterial infection affecting over half of women at least once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, some people continue to have UTIs throughout their life. Infections of the urethra and bladder are the most common forms of UTIs though the term is often used for kidney infections as well.Recurrent UTI prevention is on the minds of anyone suffering from UTIs occurring more than three times a year.
+ What causes UTIs?
Patients often wonder what causes recurrent UTIs. Sometimes the problem may boil down to basic anatomy that allows the bacteria to more easily travel into the urethra from the anus. The most common bacteria that causes UTIs is E. coli that doesn’t normally live within the urinary tract. While the gut does contain some harmless strains, the urinary tract cannot combat the bacteria resulting in pain and discomfort for you.
+ What are usual UTI symptoms?
UTI symptoms are less than stellar, as they start to dictate how your day will play out despite any plans you have. You should consult your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing:
  • A painful, burning sensation when you urinate. The pain can spread as the infection moves from the urethra to the bladder and on to the kidney.
  • Dark, bloody, or cloudy urine with a foul smell.
  • An intense and frequent need to urinate.
  • Only being able to squeeze out a few drops when you go to the bathroom.
  • Pain in your sides, pelvic region and lower abdomen.
  • Fever, vomiting, nausea, and chills.
UTI symptoms may present themselves differently in older patients. Other indications to look out for include lack of mobility and appetite, agitation, and confusion.
+ What is cystitis?
Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder, and is usually referred to as a bladder infection. It is a type of urinary tract infection. Cystitis occurs when bacteria from your gastrointestinal tract such as E.coli are introduced to the opening of your urethra and climb up to your bladder, bind to the bladder walls, and multiply.
+ What does is mean to have recurrent UTIs?
Recurrent UTIs or chronic UTIs are infections that come back even after they have been treated with antibiotics. Recurrent UTIs happen for a number of reasons: age, menopause, diabetes, genetics, and the fact that women have shorter urethras than men.
+ What are chronic UTIs?
Chronic UTIs or recurrent UTIs are infections that do not respond to medicine and keep recurring. They are more common in women due to the fact that a woman’s urethra is within close proximity to the vagina and anus, where UTI-causing bacteria live. Women’s urethras are shorter than men’s, so bacteria have a shorter “ladder” to climb when it comes to colonizing the bladder.
+ How do I prevent and get rid of recurrent UTIs?
When you ask your doctor how to get rid of bacteria that causes UTIs, the most common answer is with an antibiotic prescription. A wide range of antibiotics may be used to treat your UTI depending on how severe the infection is and whether or not it has traveled into the kidneys. Unfortunately, antibiotics can also have negative side effects. Knowing how to prevent UTIs is key If you suffer from chronic UTIs:
  • Post-sex pee: Flush out any bacteria that may have travelled up to your urethra during sex.
  • Always wash between switching from anal to vaginal sex.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Steer clear of feminine sprays, douches, and spermicidal lube that can throw off your bacterial balance.
  • Consider probiotics.
  • Shower instead of taking a bath.
  • Do not hold your pee over a long period of time, go when your body tells you to.
  • Wear cotton undies and go commando at night to get some air to your area!
For some of us, taking these simple precautions aren't enough. If you find that you keep getting recurrent UTIs, consider adding Uqora to your routine. Drink Uqora Target after UTI-causing activities to flush out bacteria. Uqora Target has the perfect dose of d mannose for UTI prevention, and other UTI-fighting ingredients to keep you UTI-free.

Who is more prone to recurrent UTIs?

Sometimes gender, age, preexisting conditions, and other unavoidable circumstances put people at higher risk for recurring UTIs. Here are some examples of groups that are more susceptible.

  • Women: It's probably no surprise that women get UTIs at a much higher rate than men. Roughly one in two women you know will get a UTI at some point in their life, and about one in five women will suffer from recurrent UTIsWhy the difference? Women have a shorter urethra than men, so bacteria that make it into the urethra don't have to travel far to reach the bladder. Plus, the distance between the urethra and the anus is much shorter in women, so bacteria can travel from the anus to the urethra much more easily.
  • Pregnant women: A woman’s risk of developing a UTI increases further throughout pregnancy. The uterus is located directly above a woman's bladder, so it's easily obstructed as her uterus grows. Sometimes that can block drainage, and stagnant urine is an inviting place for bacteria to grow. Plus, hormonal changes during pregnancy allow bacteria to travel up the urinary tract easily. These physical changes make frequent UTIs a common problem during pregnancy.
  • Menopausal & post-menopausal women: Hormones play a key role in the makeup of vaginal bacteria. Estrogen has been shown to protect the vagina and urethra from bacterial growth by making it more difficult for dangerous bacteria to grow and establish themselves. During menopause, estrogen production slows significantly, so E. coli and other bacteria have a better shot at taking hold.
  • Elderly people: As we age, our risk of developing frequent UTIs increases for a few reasons. In general, our immune system weakens over time, making it more difficult for our body to defend itself against harmful bacteria. Another important change is that the muscles around the bladder weaken as we age, making it more difficult to fully expel urine. This leads to incontinence, or an inability to properly empty the bladder, as well as a lessened urinary flow. Incontinence puts people at increased risk for UTIs, because the remaining urine is an inviting place for bacteria to grow. Finally, catheters often introduce bacteria that can cause UTIs, and catheters are more often necessary for elderly patients.
  • People with diabetes: Another group of people more prone to frequent UTIs is people with diabetes. People who have diabetes are at a heightened risk because they may also struggle to fully release the bladder for a variety of reasons, including neural damage and compromised blood flowPeople with diabetes also commonly take a medication called Jardiance that works by filtering sugar from the blood and releasing it in the urine. The sugar in the urine can increase their odds of infection for two reasons: 1) Bacteria in the urinary tract can eat this sugar and use it to grow and spread. 2) When urine dries outside the urethra, this can make sugar available for bacteria to spread into the urinary tract. Jardiance has shown to really improve the health of those with diabetes but also comes with the unfortunate side effect of frequent urinary tract infections.

What other factors put you at risk for chronic UTIs?

If you don't fall into one of the groups above but still experience chronic UTIs, there are a number of other factors that could be at play. In general, some of us are more prone to getting UTIs frequently because of differences in anatomy, lifestyle, habits, and general health.
  • Anatomy: Sometime a simple anatomical difference makes it easier for bacteria to travel throughout the urinary tracts. If a woman’s urethra is particularly short, she can be at higher risk for urinary and bladder infections. In addition, bacteria are often flushed out by the flow of urine. If the urethra is particularly wide or the muscles surrounding the bladder are weak, the flow of urine can be light, making it easier for bacteria to hold on to the urinary tract wall.
  • Genetics: Research has shown that some people have cells that attract bacteria with toll-like receptors. Bacteria can bind to these receptors more easily, which helps explain why some people get more UTIs than others.
  • Sexual activity: Intercourse itself doesn't cause UTIs. It's the bacteria that are introduced during the act. Bacteria are easily transferred from the skin to the urethra, which is why the post-sex pee is so important. Urination helps flush out bacteria that may have found their way up your urethra. But if you always pee after the deed and you're still getting infections, it may be time to introduce products that help prevent a UTI after sex.
  • Hygiene: Certain personal care habits can increase the risk of recurring UTIs. They include wiping back-to-front instead of front-to-back, neglecting to frequently change underwear, wearing underwear that don't breathe well, or going long periods without bathing.
  • Compromised immune system: Chronic illness can make it more difficult for your body to fight and flush out UTI-causing bacteria. Certain diseases also increase the risk of UTIs, including diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
  • Certain habits: A variety of other behaviors can lead to frequent or recurring urinary tract infections, including not drinking enough water, holding urine for too long, and engaging in prolonged physical activity.
  • Prior UTIs: Remember, your odds of getting another UTI increase once you’ve had one, so even if it was a one-time circumstance that caused your original infection, you may continue experiencing them.

Recurrent UTIs impact us all differently

How to prevent recurrent UTIs

The best UTI prevention helps control the growth and production of bacteria within the urinary tract. The prevention methods that help flush out bacteria with good hydration work well. A treatment plan that breaks down the biofilm bacteria use to protect themselves can have long-lasting results in preventing a UTI.

Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk for chronic UTIs:

  • Always pee after sex: This helps wash out the bacteria that may be lingering in your urethra after sex, reducing your chances of infection. In addition to flushing out the bacteria with proper hydration and good hygiene, you can stop UTIs caused by sex when you take a daily capsule for ongoing UTI prevention.
  • Wash between anal and vaginal sex: Switching from anal to vaginal sex without cleaning up in between allows bacteria from the rectum to spread and easily travel up the urethra.
  • Rethink your contraception method: Spermicides and diaphragms are common offenders when it comes to UTIs. They can aggravate the sensitive tissue around the vulva and lead to more frequent UTIs.
  • Drink plenty of water: Frequent hydration leads to frequent urination. The more water you drink, the more bacteria you'll flush out of your urethra.
  • Rethink your cleaning regimen: Throw away your feminine sprays and douches—they do more harm than good. Spermicidal lube can also disrupt the natural vaginal flora that keep your body in healthy balance.
  • Take probiotics: One of the best ways to fight bad bacteria is with good bacteria. Probiotics like Uqora Promote help boost your body's infection-fighting bacteria, so you can prevent UTIs naturally.
  • Opt for showers over baths: Skip the soak in favor of the rinse. Showers tend to clean the body more effectively. Plus, baths allow the body to eat up synthetic ingredients in personal care products, which can irritate the urethra and lead to infection.
  • Don't wait to pee: The longer you hold it, the more likely you are to feel the burn later. Flushing your bladder out frequently is key to UTI prevention. Go as soon as you can.
  • Air it out: Give your nethers some room to breathe. Try wearing cotton underwear during the day and going commando while you sleep.
  • Use preventative products: The best way to combat UTIs is to take a preventative product regularly, especially after sexual activity or exercise. Take control of your UTI prevention to get back to enjoying sexual intercourse.

Why do UTIs come back right after antibiotics?

When UTIs keep coming back, doctors will often prescribe "prophylactic antibiotics," or a constant, low dose intended to prevent new infections. But that can just lead to bigger problems. Each course of antibiotics puts you at higher risk for developing an antibiotic-resistant infection, which means future treatments may not be effective.

In a recent study, Urinary Tract Infections: Epidemiology, Mechanisms of Infection and Treatment Options, the authors concluded: “Moreover, high rates of recurrent UTIs suggest that antibiotics are not an effective therapy for all UTIs."

Antibiotic resistance is generally known to be a contributing factor in repeat occurrences of an infection. The World Health Organization has been tracking the rapid growth of bacterial resistance to various antibiotics; after a virtually zero measurable effect in the 1980s, the problem has grown to become widespread and one of great concern.

One of the most common pathogens associated with urinary tract infections is Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterial strain which has been attributed to greater than 85% of UTIs worldwide according to the CDC. The antibiotic resistance rate for E. coli is also rising rapidly. Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus saprophyticus can also cause urinary tract infections. Like E. coli, these bacterial strains are showing a growing resistance to antibiotics.

As mentioned, bacterial biofilms also play a significant role in the development of chronic UTIs. After treatment, a majority of UTI sufferers tested for the presence of bacteria in their urine were thought to be free of infection after testing showed negative results. Their urinary tract infections, however, returned. Biofilms can be blamed; their presence can result in patients being incorrectly assumed to be free of UTI-causing bacteria.

UTI-causing bacteria

The deceptiveness of bacterial biofilms

Free-floating microorganisms, such as E. coli, can attach themselves to a surface. In the case of urinary tract infections, the surface can be the bladder wall. After the first few microorganisms adhere to the attachment surface, they can be joined by others in a process termed dispersal. At this stage, the bacterial colony can spread on the bladder wall and increase in size.

The process eventually becomes irreversible and the colony begins to develop a protective external covering around itself. This is the biofilm, and it allows the bacterial colony to exist undetected and remain protected from the effects of medications. Because the bacterial colony remains encased within a protective shell, the body’s immune system is less likely to become aware of its presence and respond.

Only free-floating bacteria can be detected by standard microbiological urine testing. Negative test results will be obtained when no free-floating bacteria are present in urine, even if biofilm colonies remain attached to the bladder wall. When these undetected biofilm colonies eventually release bacteria, the body’s immune system will react and the acute and distressing symptoms of a urinary tract infection will once again begin to appear.

Biofilms are also formed by fungal microorganisms, but bacterial biofilm infections are the more common factor in UTI causes. The National Institute of Health has estimated that bacterial biofilms account for about 80 percent of human infections. Combined with the rise of antibiotic resistance, biofilms account for a great deal of the suffering that women with recurrent UTIs are forced to endure. The best approach to end the suffering can be found in taking preventive steps that will help to avoid both first-time and recurring UTIs.

Take a proactive approach with Uqora

Understanding why your UTIs keep coming back can help you prevent them. If you struggle with chronic UTIs and are sick of antibiotics, try Uqora. We make effective, safe products using ingredients found in nature to help women take control of their urinary tract health.

You guys... this stuff is a life saver.

"I suffered from CHRONIC UTIs and have had some pretty serious repercussions from taking mass amounts of antibiotics. I have not had a UTI since I started taking uqora. I drink it after things that are my triggers (sex in particular) and it stops it in it’s tracks!"
Lacey, Uqora customer

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