UTIs are a complex issue and the list of risk factors is pretty long.

We’ll try to keep it really simple.

risk of UTI

General risk factors:

Age: older people are one of the most prone groups to develop urinary tract infections and serious complications. They have weaker immune systems, many of them are on medication, hospitalised, or in nursing homes and often fitted with urinary bladder catheters.

In the 65+ age group, women and men get affected at a similar rate.

Chronic conditions

Diabetes-diabetics are in particular vulnerable to bacterial infections, the presence of glucose in urine makes it a fertile medium for all types of bacterial growth. 

Dialysis – people that have to undergo weekly dialysis (renal replacement therapy) in order to compensate for kidney malfunction are very prone to urinary tract infections.

Compromised immune system-patients that are undergoing cancer treatments or fighting serious infections are one of the most vulnerable groups.

Long term antibiotic treatments-patients that have received or are under treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics for different kinds of infections, including sepsis, are at a very high risk of UTIs as a result of antibiotic resistance

Kidney and bladder stones can cause direct damage to the urinary tract lining that manifest itself by blood in urine (haematuria). They also block and prevent normal flow of urine and elimination of toxins, creating conditions for bacterial multiplications and serious infections.

Bladder anatomical obstructions due to tumours, surgery, or stones do not allow full emptying on the bladder. Residual urine creates a reservoir for bacterial multiplication.

Urethral Scarring repeated UTI or having been catheterised for longer periods of time can narrow the urethra compromising urine flow.

Enlarged Prostate causes UTI in men over age 60 by two mechanisms: pressure and physical obstruction not allowing bladder emptying. In cases of Prostate infection (Prostatitis) the bacteria easily migrates from the prostate into the bladder and multiplies, resulting in bladder infections secondary to Prostate infections

Constipation: lack of proper bowel movement is associated with changes in the healthy gut bacterial ecosystem (microbiota). More strains of pathogenic bacteria multiply and if they reach the urethra they can cause infections.

Also the prolonged physical pressure exerted on the bladder prevents the normal outward flow of urine.

Dehydration: volume of urine passing through the bladder is directly linked to the amount of liquids ingested. If not enough liquid volumesare flushing the bladder, bacteria can easily settle and multiply.

Women UTIs are more frequent in women mostly due to the female anatomy but also related to healthy vaginal flora, hygiene habits, lifestyle, birth control methods

Anatomy definitely puts women at a huge disadvantage as opposed to men. In women the urethra is only 2-4 centimetres long, and bacteria can reach the bladder very easy. The urethra, the vagina and the anus are close to each other.

Young women are frequently affected due to several factors: sex life that causes the bacteria to be pushed into the urethra, vaginal flora affected by prolonged use of tampons, local spermicides, lubricants, frequent antibiotic treatments.

Pregnant women are one of the most prone groups to develop urinary tract infections due to the pressure of the womb on the bladder.

Menopause is also a well-known risk factor. The decline in the estrogen production causes thinning of the lining (epithelium) of the uro-genital system, making it prone to injury and less able to defend against bacteria. See more: UTI and Women

Men: young men are rarely affected by UTIs, it is happening mostly as a consequence of a sexually transmitted disease.

Over the age of 60, due to an enlarged prostate, UTIs are affecting a significant number of men increasing in frequency with age

Other predisposing factors: previous UTIs, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, casual sex with multiple partners.