What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
Some experts believe 1 in 2 women have a lifetime risk of getting one and some get repeat infections.
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection in any part of your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.
If you’re a woman, your chance of getting a urinary tract infection is high so here’s how to handle them and how to make it less likely you’ll get one in the first place.
Symptoms of UTIs
You may have some, all or just one of the common symptoms of a UTI as they can include:
– A burning feeling when you pee
– A frequent or intense urge to pee, even though little comes out when you do
– Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling pee
– Feeling tired or shaky
– Fever or chills (a sign that the infection may have reached your kidneys)
– Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
Types of UTIs
An infection can happen in different parts of your urinary tract. Each type has a different name, based on where it is.
- Cystitis (bladder): You might feel like you need to pee a lot, or it might hurt when you pee. You might also have lower belly pain and cloudy or bloody urine
- Pyelonephritis (kidneys): This can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and pain in your upper back or side
- Vaginitis (infection of the vagina).This can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, an itchy vagina and pain when peeing.
Causes of UTIs
UTIs are a key reason why doctors tell women to wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
The urethra — the tube that takes pee from the bladder to the outside of the body — is close to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, can sometimes get out of your anus and into your urethra.
From there, they can travel up to your bladder and, if the infection isn’t treated, can continue on to infect your kidneys.
Women have shorter urethras than men. That makes it easier for bacteria to get to their bladders. Having sex can introduce bacteria into your urinary tract, too.
Some women are more likely to get UTIs because of their genes. The shape of their urinary tracts makes others more likely to be infected.
Women with diabetes may be at higher risk because their weakened immune systems make them less able to fight off infections.
Other conditions that can boost your risk include hormone changes, multiple sclerosis, and anything that affects urine flow, such as kidney stones, a stroke, and a spinal cord injury.
Checking if you have a UTI
If you suspect that you have a urinary tract infection, go to the doctor. You’ll give a urine sample to test for UTI-causing bacteria.
If you get frequent UTIs and your doctor suspects a problem in your urinary tract, they might take a closer look with an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan.
They might also use a long, flexible tube called a cystoscope to look inside your urethra and bladder.
Antibiotics are the most common treatment for urinary tract infections. As always, be sure to take all of your prescribed medicine, even after you start to feel better.
Drink lots of water to help flush the bacteria from your body. If you are experiencing pain then paracetamol or over the counter painkillers can help as can a hot water bottle or a heating pad.
Cranberry juice may be helpful in flushing out or preventing E. coli bacteria — the most common cause of urinary tract infections — from sticking to the walls of your bladder, where they can cause an infection.
Many people consider cranberries to be a superfood due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. Research has linked the nutrients in cranberries to a lower risk of urinary tract infection , the prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure.
Because many commercial cranberry juices contain high levels of sugar trying to find one with a little or none as sugar will not be helpful to treat any infection.
When to see your doctor
If you have three or more UTIs a year you need to have this investigated.
Some options they may suggest include taking:
- A low dose of an antibiotic over a longer period to help prevent repeat infections
- A single dose of an antibiotic after sex, which is a common infection trigger
- Antibiotics for 1 or 2 days every time symptoms appear
- A non-antibiotic prophylaxis treatment
-home urine tests, which you can get without a prescription, can help you decide whether you need to call your doctor.
If you’re taking antibiotics for a UTI, you can test to see whether they’ve cured the infection (although you still need to finish your prescription).
How to Prevent UTI Re-Infection
Following some tips can help you avoid getting another UTI:
– Empty your bladder often as soon as you feel the need to pee; don’t rush, and be sure you’ve emptied your bladder completely.
– Wipe from front to back after you use the toilet.
– Drink lots of water.
– Choose showers over baths.
– Stay away from feminine hygiene sprays, scented douches, and scented bath products; they’ll only increase irritation.
– Cleanse your genital area before sex.
– Pee after sex to flush out any bacteria that may have entered your urethra.
– If you use a diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly for birth control, you may want to switch to another method.
Diaphragms can increase bacteria growth, while unlubricated condoms and spermicides can irritate your urinary tract. All can make UTI symptoms more likely.
– Keep your genital area dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes.
Don’t wear tight jeans and nylon underwear; they can trap moisture, creating the perfect environment for bacteria growth.