Urinary tract infections. Ugh. They turn urinating into a burning, stinging test of endurance and perseverance. Unfortunately, chances are good that you’ll get at least one UTI in your lifetime. Women are 50 percent more likely to get a UTI than men, and the odds are even higher if you’re post-menopausal.
To give you an idea of just how common UTIs are, a recent study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that 8.1 million doctor visits a year are due to UTIs.
If left untreated, UTIs can cause serious problems such as kidney damage. Fortunately, when caught early, they’re usually cured with a simple round of antibiotics.
What Causes UTIs?
UTIs occur when bacteria, usually from your digestive tract, gets into your urinary system. The bacteria travels from your rectum to your urethra (your urinary tract) to your bladder and, if untreated, to your kidneys.
You can blame anatomy for women’s susceptibility to UTIs. A woman’s urethra is shorter and closer to the rectum, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Sexually active women are also more prone to UTIs.
Symptoms of a UTI
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating
- Frequent urination
- Dark, cloudy, or reddish urine
- Strong smelling urine
- Pain even when you aren’t urinating
- Pain in your back or side
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Strong urge to pee but you only pass a small amount of urine
How Are UTIs Treated?
If you think you have a UTI, see your doctor immediately. She’ll perform a urinalysis to check for bacteria in your urine. If so, she’ll take a culture to ensure you get the right antibiotic. You’ll also need to drink plenty of water to flush out the infection. Your doctor may prescribe a medication for pain, and/or you can use a heating pad. With proper treatment, a UTI usually clears up within three to seven days.
How Can I Prevent UTIs?
- Drink plenty of water--4-6 glasses a day.
- Don’t Hold It—When you have to pee, go. If urine stays in your bladder too long, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Ideally, you should pee about every four hours.
- Wipe front to back—This prevents bacteria from making its way to your urethra.
- Wear clothes that breathe — You don’t want to trap moisture, which fosters bacterial growth. To stay dry, wear loose fitting pants and cotton underwear, and change out of exercise clothes as soon as possible.
- Practice good sexual hygiene – Clean your genitals before and after sex. Also, pee right after sex to wash out any bacteria that may have entered your urethra.
- Don’t use feminine hygiene sprays or scented douches—They irritate your genitalia.
- Drink good-quality cranberry juice – It helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of your bladder.
Always see your doctor if you suspect you have a UTI. She’ll determine whether you need an antibiotic or if you have another condition.