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Bladder Infection (cont.)

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What are some risk factors for bladder infection?

Female gender is one of the main risk factors for bladder infection. Women are at increased risk for bladder infections for a number of reasons including the following:

  1. Women have a shorter urethra than men which allows bacteria to gain access to the bladder much easier than in men.
  2. Sexual activity can increase the risk of urinary tract infections. Sexually active women tend to have more urinary tract infections than women who are not sexually active.
  3. The type of birth control a woman uses can affect the risk of developing urinary tract infections. Women who use diaphragms for birth control may have a higher risk of urinary tract infections, as well as women who use spermicidal agents.
  4. Menopausal women are at greater risk of developing urinary tract infections. Decreased estrogen levels cause changes in the urinary tract, making it more susceptible to bacteria.

Bacteria in the bladder is one of the most common infectious issues that occurs in pregnancy. The risk of having bacteria in the urine increases with lower socioeconomic status, history of multiple children, and sickle cell trait. Pregnant women are less likely to clear the bacteria in the bladder compared to nonpregnant women and are more likely to develop symptoms.

Other risk factors include the following:

  1. Urinary tract abnormalities such as obstruction to the flow of urine at any level, vesicoureteral reflux (a structural abnormality that allows urine to go backwards from the bladder to the kidneys), and neurologic conditions that affect bladder function
  2. In men with prostate enlargement, bladder infection is also more common than in the general male population. Prostate enlargement can lead to obstruction of the normal flow of urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. Residual urine can then become infected. The higher bladder pressure needed to push urine past the enlarged prostate causes decreased blood flow to the bladder, making it more susceptible to bacteria.
  3. Urinary catheters (Foley catheters) are another potential risk for bladder infection. These urinary catheters are typically used in settings where an individual may not be able to urinate naturally. Urinary catheters simply provide a physical vehicle to transport bacteria from outside directly into the bladder and the urinary system. Foley catheters are commonly used in patients with severe illness, limited mobility, urinary incontinence (inability to hold their urine), bladder obstruction and urinary retention (prostate enlargement, urethral scarring, prostate cancer), bladder trauma, bladder cancer, bladder dysfunction due to neurologic conditions, or who are unable to get out of bed.
  4. Bladder infection is more commonly seen in patients with paralytic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, and other diseases of the nervous system, than in the general public. In these and other similar neurologic diseases, bladder function may be impaired due to abnormal nervous system control of the bladder (neurogenic bladder). As a result, urine may be retained in the bladder and not completely emptied after voiding. Urinary retention can be a cause of bladder infection. Furthermore, if urinary retention becomes more serious, causing pain and kidney dysfunction, Foley catheters may become necessary to empty the bladder and relieve the bladder pressure caused by excessive retention of urine. A catheter, in turn, can substantially increase the risk of bladder infection.
  5. In addition to the Foley catheter, any instrumentation of the urinary tract or nearby structures can potentially lead to cystitis. Medical procedures (cystoscopy, bladder biopsy, prostate procedures), vaginal pessary, and IUD (intrauterine device) placement for birth control can pose an increased risk of developing a bladder infection.
  6. In children and toddlers, the risk for bladder infection may be increased in females, uncircumcised males, those with structural abnormalities of the urinary tract, and Caucasians (four times higher than in African Americans).
  7. Elderly people are also at higher risk of suffering bladder infections as are individuals who take medications that weaken the immune defense system.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2017


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