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Urinary Tract Infection Facts to Know

1. Urinary tract infections result in nearly 10 million office visits, 1.5 million hospitalizations and $1 billion in health care costs, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Two-thirds of office visits for urinary tract infections are by women of childbearing age. One in every five women will have at least one urinary tract infection in her life, and some women will have more.

2. Nearly 20 percent of women who have one urinary tract infection will have another, and 30 percent of those who have had two will have a third. About 80 percent of those who have had three will have a fourth. Four out of five such women get another infection within 18 months of the last one.

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3. Some women are more prone to the infection than others. Women at higher risk include those who are past menopause, who have diabetes, or who use a diaphragm. If your mother or sister had frequent urinary tract infections, you are more likely to have one. Recently, researchers found that women whose partners use a condom with spermicidal foam also tend to have growth of E. coli bacteria in the vagina.

4. About two to four percent of pregnant women develop a urinary tract infection. Although experts say that pregnant women are no more prone to the infection than other women, when pregnant women do have one, it is more likely to spread to the kidneys. Urinary tract infections during pregnancy needs prompt attention by a health care professional to avoid the risk of premature birth. Pregnant women may also have no symptoms associated with an infection.

5. Bacteria, called Escherichia coli (E. coli), that live in the digestive system and spread to the urinary tract, and staph saphrophyticus, cause most urinary tract infections.

6. Urinary urgency, urge incontinence and pain with urination can be early symptoms of urinary tract infection. Urinary urgency is characterized by frequent overwhelming urges to urinate. Urge incontinence is urine leakage resulting from not getting to a toilet in time

7. Urinary tract infections usually are not serious and are easily treated by taking antibiotics. Kidney infection is the most common complication and can produce fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and back pain. Severe cases may result in hospitalization.

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8. Although urinary tract infections do occur in men, women are at greater risk for them because of their anatomy. The female urethra is short and the rectum, vagina and urethra are located closely together in women, making it easy to spread bacteria that live in the digestive tract to the urinary tract.

9. Women who have more than three urinary tract infections in a year may benefit from preventive antibiotic therapy. Such therapy may involve taking a low dose of medication every day for six months or longer, taking a single dose after having sex or taking a dose for one or two days when symptoms begin to appear.

10. When being treated for a urinary tract infection, just because your symptoms are gone doesn't mean the infection is. Make sure you take all the antibiotic medication you have been given, even if your symptoms are gone before you finish your prescription. If you fail to complete the entire treatment, the infection may still be present, and your symptoms will return, or another infection may arise in a short time.

Copyright 2003

National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC).

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