Risk factors for urinary tract infections include:

  • Being female. UTIs are common in women, and many women experience more than one infection. Women have a shorter urethra than men do, which cuts down on the distance that bacteria must travel to reach a woman's bladder.
  • Being sexually active. Sexually active women tend to have more UTIs than do women who aren't sexually active.
  • Using certain types of birth control. Women who use diaphragms for birth control also may be at higher risk, as may women who use spermicidal agents.
  • Completing menopause. After menopause, UTIs may become more common because the lack of estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that make it more vulnerable to infection.
  • Having urinary tract abnormalities. Babies born with urinary tract abnormalities that don't allow urine to leave the body normally or cause urine to back up in the urethra have an increased risk of UTIs.
  • Having blockages in the urinary tract. Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can trap urine in the bladder and increase the risk of UTI.
  • Having a suppressed immune system. Diabetes and other diseases that impair the immune system — the body's defense against germs — can increase the risk of UTIs.
  • Using a catheter to urinate. People who can't urinate on their own and use a tube (catheter) to urinate have an increased risk of UTIs. This may include people who are hospitalized, people with neurological problems that make it difficult to control their ability to urinate and people who are paralyzed.
Aug. 29, 2012

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