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Did you know that urinary tract infections are the cause of just over 8 million trips to a healthcare provider by women in the U.S. each year? You’ve likely experienced the wrath of a UTI — that burning, itching, uncomfortable sensation that makes you want to curl up in a ball and never leave your bed. Some women get them a lot worse than others, and some more frequently than others as well. What causes these frustrating, painful infections? While our body’s immune system generally does a good job at keeping away infections, those pesky germs sometimes still sneak through. A UTI is caused by bacteria (usually e. coli) that enters the urethra, sticks to the bladder wall and multiplies. The infection begins in the lower urinary tract, where the urethra and bladder are found, the areas that control urine in the body. Common symptoms of a UTI are pelvic pain, burning with urination, and an urgent or frequent need to urinate.

While women are the most likely to contract a UTI, men and children of all ages can also get them. Women are the most at risk because their urethra is much shorter than men’s, and the opening is much closer to the anus, which means that bacteria has a shorter distance to travel between the two areas on a woman than it does on a man. Other risk factors include being sexually active, as sexual intercourse can actually push bacteria into the urethra; being older and having gone through menopause, as lower levels of estrogen affect the levels of healthy, infection-fighting bacteria in the body; using diaphragms or spermicide-coated condoms; having trouble urinating, which can promote bacterial growth; having a kidney stone, or in men, an enlarged prostate; having diabetes or a weakened immune system; having prior UTIs; and using a catheter or having undergone a recent surgery or medical procedure involving the urinary tract.

Thankfully, there are many doctor-approved ways to avoid UTIs that Dr. Ghea, a female obgyn in Fort Lauderdale, both agrees with and recommends. These are important women’s health tips to follow if you want to prevent yourself from experiencing these common infections.

First and foremost, the most basic way to rid your body of bacteria in the bladder is by flushing it out before it can really set it and do its damage. Make sure to drink plenty of water, and if you need to go to the bathroom, don’t hold it in! Staying hydrated will help get you on a regular urination pattern, which will never allow bacteria to sit in the bladder and urinary tract for too long. This next tip may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many women don’t know to do this: wipe from front to back. The bacteria that most often causes a UTI is commonly found around the anus. Wiping from back to front, especially after a bowel movement, could bring along some severely unwanted friends. Stay away from any kind of feminine product that could be irritating too, such as douches, deodorant sprays, and scented powders.

It’s also important to make sure you wash before engaging in sexual intercourse, and urinate right afterward. Your method of birth control could also have an affect on whether or not you get a UTI. Diaphragms, spermicide or spermicide-lubricated condoms can all contribute to bacterial growth. If you experience frequent UTIs, consider switching to another birth control, and use a water-based lubricant if you suffer from any vaginal dryness.

If you are looking for an obgyn in Plantation, Dr. Ghea is available to see patients at Westside OB/GYN Group, a Plantation obgyn office. You can make an appointment by calling 954-473-2011 or using the request form online. Dr. Ghea is a Fort Lauderdale obstetrician with over 15 years of experience in the industry and a passion for bringing awareness to women’s health.

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