Urinary tract infections are one of the most common type of bacterial infections in the United States, and are responsible for approximately 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers each year. While women are often the ones who are more concerned with getting urinary tract infections, and are more likely to suffer from them, a new report shows that it may, in fact, be men who have more to fear. According to Henry Ford Hospital urologists, older men who contract urinary tract infections are actually far more likely to experience more serious bladder health repercussions, and often wind up hospitalized because of them.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
The urinary tract includes two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder and the urethra. Urinary tract infections can be caused by a number of different types of microbes, including fungi, viruses and bacteria with the Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria being the most common culprit. A urinary tract infection occurs when microbes enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply. Normally, the microbes that enter the urinary tract are flushed out of the body before they cause any symptoms of an infection. However, when the microbes are able to overtake the body’s natural defense mechanisms, an infection occurs. Most urinary tract infections are treated with a course of antibiotics; the course of antibiotic therapy will depend on the type of microbe causing the infection.
Bladder Health in Women
Women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections, having a lifetime risk of 50 percent. The increased incidence of urinary tract infections in women has a lot to do with their anatomy. The urethra in women is shorter allowing bacteria to enter and infect the bladder more quickly. Additionally, a women’s urethral opening is closer to the anus and vagina which are both sources of microbes.
Research Looking at Bladder Health in Men vs. Women
The researchers looked at previous studies and found that there has been a rapid increase in the number of hospitalizations for patients with urinary tract infections. They determined that being able to predict who was going to need hospitalization after diagnosis would help to curb the rising costs that are being seen in the healthcare system.
The current study looked at data from 10.8 million patients who had a primary diagnosis of urinary tract infections (bladder infections and/or kidney infections) and were seen in American hospital emergency rooms between 2006 and 2009. About 16 percent, or 1.8 million, of these patients were admitted to the hospital for additional treatment following their diagnosis. For both men and women, the incidence of going to the hospital with symptoms of a urinary tract infection was highest in the elderly. However, for women there was a peak in incidence between the ages of 15 and 25, which corresponded to the onset of sexual activity. Interestingly, it was elderly men and those with acute kidney infections that were the most likely to be admitted to the hospital for further treatment following diagnosis.
Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
Not all urinary tract infections cause symptoms, but experiencing symptoms can be quite uncomfortable. Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
- A strong urge to urinate
- Urinating frequent, small amounts of urine
- A burning sensation with urination
- Cloudy urine
- Red, pink or brownish colored urine (a sign of blood in the urine)
- Strong smelling urine
- Pelvic pain (in women)
- Rectal pain (in men)
- Upper back and side pain
- Muscles aches
- Nausea and/or vomiting
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your medical doctor and get treatment started as quickly as possible to avoid complications.
Recommendations for Optimal Bladder Health
To improve bladder health and help to prevent urinary tract infections, you can follow a number of recommendations including: drinking plenty of fluids (water is best), urinating when you feel the urge (don’t hold it in), and urinating following sexual intercourse. Additionally, wearing cotton underwear and loose fitting clothing is advised to keep the area around the urethra dry. If you’re a female, there are additional precautions that you can take to protect your bladder health including: wiping from front to back after a bowel movement and switching birth control methods if you have recurrent urinary tract infections. Utilizing these recommendations will help to prevent an influx of microbes from taking over resulting in infection.
The current research is the first of its kind revealing predictors for individuals who may need to be admitted to hospital following a urinary tract infection diagnosis. Managing elderly men and those with acute kidney infections more effectively in outpatient settings may help to cut the rising costs associated with hospital admissions. Additionally, primary health care providers should be providing all patients, especially those that are high risk, with recommendations for optimal bladder health to prevent infections of the urinary tract from occurring, which will also help to curbs costs.