CHICAGO—Urinary frequency and urgency are the two predominant presenting urinary symptoms in young women with their first UTI, according to a new prospective study of college-aged women. 

Unless they had hematuria, women waited on average three days after appearance of clinical symptoms before seeking medical attention, investigators found.

From July 2001 through April 2005, researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville studied 181 women experiencing their first UTI and seeking care at the university’s health clinic.

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These women were compared with a control group of 80 women seeking care at the clinic who did not have a UTI. The women in both groups had a mean age of 21 years. A clinic nurse administered a survey that addressed lifestyle habits and dietary intake.

Sexual activity was the most important risk factor for UTI, with vaginal intercourse and the number of sex partners in the previous two weeks the two most significant risk factors. The use of tampons versus sanitary napkins during menstruation, hesitating to urinate, and direction of wiping did not appear to be strongly associated with first time UTI.

“We also found that there was a relationship between increased coffee and tea consumption as risk factors for a first UTI compared with those women in the control group,” said investigator Charles R. Vincent, MD, a urology resident. “There was also a weak relationship with alcohol consumption.”

Escherichia coli was the most prevalent microbe isolated from urine, followed by Ureaplasma urealyticum.

Investigators presented their findings here at the American Urological Association Annual Meeting.

Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, Vice Chair and Professor of Urology at the University of Kansas in Kansas City, said the findings are important.

“This study highlights that there are some potentially modifiable risk factors, particularly related to lifestyle choices that people make,” Dr. Griebling said. “[The researchers] really did a good job of looking at this issue in a structured and scientific manner.”