Bicycle riding combines two key triggers of female urinary tract infections -- friction and bacteria. If you're a woman and an avid cyclist, understanding the mechanics of infection and taking the right precautions can minimize the chance you'll contract a UTI during during this physical activity. If you're a male cyclist, little if any evidence shows a direct link between bike riding and infections, but the mechanics of cycling can aggravate another condition with symptoms mimicking bladder infections.
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Mechanics of Infection
The area of a woman's body closest to the bicycle seat typically contains a multitude of bacteria. If you're a female cyclist, regular bike riding or health-club indoor-biking classes cause repeated friction in that region of your body. According to Maine-based Women to Women Health Care Center, such repeated movement potentially pushes bacteria into the urethra -- the tube that carries urine from your body. Once inside, the bacteria travel up the urinary tract, sometimes causing infection that reaches as far as the kidneys. Women remain at greater risk for such infections than men, according to Mayo Clinic.
When to Seek Treatment
Common signs you're suffering a urinary tract infection requiring medical treatment include blood in urine, cloudy urine, strong urges to frequently urinate, pelvic pain in women and rectal pain in men, according to Mayo Clinic. Urinary tract infections sometimes cause fevers, back or abdominal pain and pelvic pressure, Mayo notes.
Concerning Male Riders
Though not often associated with bladder infections in men, long and frequent bike rides sometimes aggravate another condition in some men, according to Dr. Paul K. Nolan, M.D., writing for BikeRoute.com. The shape, friction and bounce of a bike seat sometimes aggravates the male prostate gland, located near the bladder. If you're a male rider already suffering from an enlarged prostate, frequent cycling often worsens the condition. And as prostates swell, they place pressure on the bladder, sometimes causing symptoms similar to urinary tract infections.
Padded cycling shorts, with gel, thick chamois or cloth reinforcement along the seat and crotch area, help minimize friction and bounce when riding. Proper seat adjustment and bike seats with coiled shocks beneath also provide some relief from friction and bounce. Women to Women Health Care Center recommends that female riders "flush out their systems at the earliest signs" of urinary tract infections, consuming plenty of water to induce more frequent urination. Urinating immediately after periods of prolonged friction in the vaginal area -- such as following long bike rides -- also mitigates infection, according to Women to Women.
Women to Women notes urinary tract infections require treatment with antibiotics. But the clinic recommends incorporating preventive techniques, particularly if you're prone to frequent urinary tract infections. Repeated cycles of antibiotics for treatment increases the odds of additional infection, your body's resistance to antibiotics and the likelihood of suffering a yeast infection if you're a female, according to the center.