Dear Dr Mitchell,
I have been treated for UTIs over and over this year. Could the cause be this uncircumcised boyfriend of mine, who is also married?
Recurrent urinary tract infections are a serious problem that need to be properly investigated and managed. The infection in the urine can be recurrent if it is incompletely treated, inappropriately treated with the wrong choice of antibiotics, or if you are repeatedly exposed to infection during sexual intercourse. Recurrent urinary tract infections should be properly investigated by doing a urine culture on a clean specimen of urine collected in a sterile container (mid-stream urine sample). This is processed in the lab to determine the type of bacterial infection and the drugs that are effective against the bacteria. The doctor can then appropriately adjust the treatment given previously if there is drug resistance or await the results and make an appropriate choice based on the final culture report.
You should also get a blood sugar test and a screening test done for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). If your immune system is poor from diabetes mellitus or HIV infection, this can lead to recurrent infection. It is usually a good practice to do an ultrasound of the kidneys, ureter and bladder to determine if there are any abnormalities that put you at risk for recurrent urinary tract infections. Emptying your bladder regularly, especially after sexual intercourse, will help to reduce the risk of bacteria tracking up into the bladder. The practice of drinking a lot of fluids including cranberry juice is also helpful in reducing the risk of a bladder infection.
The fact that your partner is uncircumcised should not increase your risk of urinary tract infections. He should, however, pull back the foreskin and wash his penis properly. Multiple sexual partners increase your risk of infections including major sexually transmitted infections. His wife could also have other partners and put you at risk for major infections since you would now be at risk for exposure to all the infections that both your partner and his wife contract. The use of a condom, male or female, is absolutely important to reduce your risk of exposure to infections. This also decreases your risk of cervical cancer from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). You should get regular Pap smears done and also get the vaccine to prevent HPV infection and cervical cancer — Cervarix or Gardasil.
In the long term it is best to discontinue the relationship since recurrent infections can damage your kidneys and result in severe long-term complications.
Consult your doctor who will advise you further.
Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to email@example.com; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 876-968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.