Treating Recurrent UTIs and Factors That Increase Your Risk

Factors Affecting Recurrent UTIs

Research suggests that one factor behind a recurrent urinary tract infection is that bacteria are able to attach to cells lining the urinary tract. A recent study found that bacteria formed a protective film on the inner lining of the bladder in mice. If a similar process can be demonstrated in humans, the discovery may lead to new treatments to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections.
 
Another line of research has indicated that women who are "non-secretors" of certain blood group antigens may be more prone to recurrent urinary tract infections because the cells lining the vagina and urethra may allow bacteria to attach more easily. Further research will show whether this association is sound and proves useful in identifying women at high risk for urinary tract infections.
 

How Are They Treated?

Women who have had 3 urinary tract infections are likely to continue having them. Four out of 5 women will develop another UTI within 18 months of their last urinary tract infection. Women who have recurrent urinary tract infections (3 or more a year) should ask their doctor about the following recurrent urinary tract infection treatment options:
 
  • Low doses of an antibiotic such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMZ) or nitrofurantoin daily for 6 months or longer. If taken at bedtime, the drug remains in the bladder longer and may be more effective. Research has shown this therapy to be effective without causing serious side effects.
     
  • Single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse.
     
  • A short course (1 or 2 days) of antibiotics when symptoms appear.
     
Women who have recurrent urinary tract infections may also use a dipstick that changes color when an infection is present. Dipsticks are now available without a prescription. The strip can detect nitrite, which is formed when bacteria change nitrate in the urine to nitrite. This test can detect about 90 percent of urinary tract infections when used with the first morning urine specimen and may be useful for women who have recurrent urinary tract infections.
 

Urinary Tract Infections

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