Urinary tract infections occur when
bacteria get into the urinary tract and multiply
. The most common cause of UTI is infection with Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria. E.coli bacteria normally live in the colon, and sometimes they get into the urinary tract. Urinary tract infections
can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections
that spread into the urethra and cause urethritis. Herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia can all cause urethral infection.
How bacteria enters the urinary tract
The two most common ways that bacteria enter the urinary tract are poor
hygiene and sexual intercourse
. Because women's urethras are close to their anuses where bacteria like E.coli live, the bacteria doesn't have to move far to get to the urethra. During sexual activity, bacteria can be transferred from the area around the anus to the area around the urethra. Those bacteria can then travel through the urethra to the bladder. If bacteria spread through the urinary tract to the kidney, a kidney infection can result.
Who's at risk for UTIs?
Anyone can get a UTI, but some people have an increased risk.
Risk factors for urinary tract infections
Being sexually active (this is especially true for women)
Using a diaphragm for birth control
Having kidney stones
Having an enlarged prostate
Using a urinary catheter
Learn more about UTIs