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A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system – your kidneys, bladder, ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder) or urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of your body). Most UTIs are in the bladder or urethra. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria (germs) entering the urinary tract through the urethra and multiplying.
Urinary tract infections are more common in women than men because the urethra is shorter in women. Older people are more likely to get a UTI in their bladder. People who have a catheter or kidney stones are at higher risk of developing UTI’s. Sexually active women tend to have more UTIs as well as women who use diaphragms or spermicidal agents for birth control. Untreated UTIs, especially in young children, can cause complications such as permanent kidney damage.
Steps to reduce your risk of developing a UTI include wiping from front to back following a bowel movement and drinking more water to flush out the bladder. Fluids with caffeine or alcohol can be dehydrating and can worsen symptoms. Also, changing tampons or feminine pads often, wearing cotton underwear, taking showers instead of baths and avoiding tight-fitting clothing reduce risks.
Urinating immediately before and after sex may help flush out bacteria that may be introduced during intercourse.