Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) + Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is no walk in the park, especially when it results from an infection in the urinary tract. Urinary tract infections (or UTIs) are surprisingly common. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, UTIs are incredibly common. In fact, UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria entering the urethra. Here's a quick overview of UTIs and how they relate to incontinence.
Women are more prone to getting UTIs than men. The NIH reports than one factor of why UTIs are so common in women is because our urethra is shorter (see photo). Our shorter urethra allows bacteria quicker access to the bladder. In addition, a woman’s urethral opening is pretty close to where your anus and vagina are (easy access point for bacteria). Hint, hint: this is why your friends always said "pee after sex!".
Fun fact to break out at your next dinner party: Women have over a 50% chance of having a UTI in their lifetime.
Generally, the bladder is the only area affected, though if left untreated, the infection may spread to the kidneys. These germs irritate and inflame the bladder and the lining of the urethra, causing a painful burning sensation during urination. The germs may also cause urine to become cloudy or have an odd smell. Naturally, these conditions make urination difficult.
UTIs, despite their painful and annoying nature, are generally not a huge cause for concern. They can be treated with little effort most of the time, with a simple course of antibiotics often being sufficient. However, if left untreated, the bacteria can spread to the kidneys, where it can do some serious long-term damage.
UTIs and urinary incontinence are somewhat like the chicken and the egg; its hard to tell in certain cases if one caused the other and vice versa. The damage from an existing UTI can make normal urination difficult; conversely, urinary incontinence may result in larger than normal amounts of urine in the bladder, allowing the germs more time and space to reproduce. Though the infection may clear on its own sometimes, any symptoms should be addressed immediately.