Urinary tract infections (otherwise known as UTIs) are an uncomfortable and painful hit below the belt. The urinary tract includes the bladder, kidneys, urethra, and uterus. Although most infections occur in the bladder and urethra, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and become much more serious.
It is not uncommon for women to suffer more frequent UTIs than men. Women tend to be more susceptible because their anatomy makes it easier for bacteria from the rectum to reach the urinary tract and cause infection.
Symptoms of UTIs are often quite easy to identify, particularly if you’ve experienced one in the past. The most common symptom is the constant, nagging need to urinate, even after you have just relieved yourself. This feeling can last for hours at a time, and needless to say, it is frustrating, uncomfortable, and even downright maddening. Additionally, UTIs often cause a burning sensation during urination or when you’re trying to urinate. Other symptoms include lack of urination (or very little) and cloudy, smelly, or bloody urine.
If you also experience nausea, lower back pain, and fever, then it is possible your UTI has moved to your kidneys, and you must seek medical attention right away because kidney infections can be quite serious. You can prevent a UTI from spreading to your kidneys in the first place by seeking treatment early. While there are home remedies and over-the-counter medications that can help alleviate your symptoms, the only way to cure your UTI is with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. During your doctor visit, you will provide a urine sample, which will be tested for bacteria. You will then be prescribed the antibiotic best suited for your infection. If you are on the birth-control pill, ask your doctor whether you need to use a backup form of contraception since some antibiotics alter the pill’s effectiveness. While on your antibiotic, be sure to follow the instructions — take all the doses of your medication, even if your symptoms appear to be resolved, and don’t drink alcohol.
There are some other steps you can take to help treat and even prevent UTIs:
Drink plenty of water and cranberry juice. Skip soda and sugary drinks; instead fill up on lots of water and cranberry juice. Don’t drink cranberry cocktail drinks or juices high in sugar. Look for the real cranberry drinks with no added flavors or sugars. Since this won’t be as tasty, you might want to opt for cranberry pills instead. Whatever you do, stay hydrated by drinking a ton of water to flush the bacteria out of your system.
Seek OTC relief. If it is the middle of the night and you can’t visit your doctor until the next day, you can seek OTC relief in the form of medications such as Uristat. These pills will cut down on the painful need to urinate, but they certainly won’t cure your infection — so you still need to visit your doctor. Additionally, they turn your urine an odd color of orange — don’t worry, though, it’s normal (but it can stain your underwear).
Urinate before and after sex. Conventional wisdom tells us that we should urinate after sex to wash away bacteria, but new research suggests it is more helpful to urinate before sex, as this flushes away the bacteria before it even has a chance to enter your urinary tract. Whatever you choose, just make sure to urinate within 15 minutes before or after sex. It isn’t foolproof, but it can help to cut down on your chances of getting a UTI.
Don’t douche. It’s not good for your urinary tract: It upsets the normal pH balance. As long as you wash with warm water in the shower, you don’t ever need to douche, clean with harsh soaps, or use other cleansing products. Your vagina is self-cleaning, so save yourself some money and discomfort.
You should also avoid underwear that is too tight, such as tiny thongs, and you should always wipe front to back. This practice will cut back on fecal matter from reaching your delicate areas. With these precautions, you can help to ensure that UTIs won’t derail your day or your health.