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Q. I keep getting urinary tract infections (UTIs), while my sister, for instance, has never had one. What am I doing wrong?
Dr. Marianne Legato: You and your sister may be different because of inherited or physical factors. Some 50 to 60 percent of adult women have had a UTI at some point in their lives, and for some, recurrent infections are a real problem. The most common source of frequent infections are bacteria that cling to the lining of the bladder and urethra, even after treatment with antibiotics. This condition is probably genetic. Other women are prone because they have a shorter distance between the urethra and anus, which allows E. coli bacteria to more easily migrate up the urethra and cause an infection. Changing your method of contraception and avoiding spermicide may help reduce the frequency of your infections, as can urinating immediately after intercourse and regularly drinking lots of fluids. Cranberry juice has also been shown to lessen the incidence of reinfection. If these measures don't work, make an appointment with a urologist to discuss effective treatments and prevention.
Marianne Legato, MD, is the medical adviser to Ladies' Home Journal and the founder and director of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, March 2006.
Do you have a health question, concern, or worry? E-mail your questions to Dr. Legato at AskDrLegato@lhj.com, and the answer (but not your name) may be featured in an upcoming issue of Ladies' Home Journal or on LHJ.com.