Just hearing the acronym “UTI,” which stands for urinary tract infection, is enough to make many women wince and cringe. In fact, it’s estimated that between 50 to 60 percent of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime, and it is the most common bacterial infectionamong women. For many, these infections are recurrent, which means up to two infections within six months or up to three in one year. When it comes to urinary tract infections, preventative medicine is key–and there are a few ways to keep that UTI from returning.
UTI Facts and Myths
Myth: Cranberry Juice
Whether it came from your mother, your older sister, or a reliable family friend, if you feel you have a UTI coming on, the first thing you hear will be “drink cranberry juice.” This is, for the most part, a myth. Once you have the infection, cranberry juice will not cure (or even relieve pain from) a UTI. It is true that the antioxidants in cranberry are beneficial to the urinary tract, but once you’re infected, antibiotics are the only cure. To prevent recurrent UTIs, however, you can drink a glass of cranberry juice daily, or even several times a week. Cranberry extract is another great option for prevention.
Fact: Urinate After Sex
Another general piece of advice heard often is to urinate immediately after sex. This is good advice to follow. Urinating immediately after sex helps flush bacteria out of your urethra. If you suffer from recurrent UTIs, being sexually active does put you at higher risk for recurrence, but urinating after sex and keeping the genital area clean helps minimize that risk.
Myth: UTIs Are Always Painful
While many women experience a burning sensation when they urinate, not all do. In fact, there is a difference between cystitis (bladder infection), urethritis (urethral infection), and pyelonephritis (kidney infection). For some women, there may be a strong urge to urinate all of the time, others may feel pressure, and some may have abdominal pain and strong-smelling urine. If you do experience pain while urinating and can’t see a doctor immediately, there is help at the pharmacy. Instead of regular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, look for phenazopyridine HCL. These over-the-counter pain relief pills can help take the burning feeling away, until the antibiotics prescribed from your doctor begin to do their job.
Fact: Showers Over Baths
If you suffer from recurrent UTIs, it’s a much better idea to take regular showers as opposed to bathing in the tub. UTIs are caused mainly by E. coli. While some strains of E. coli are harmful, the type that lives in your gut is typically benign. However, when it reaches the urinary tract, it can cause infection. If bacteria are present, a bath will continue to circulate the bacteria, putting you at more risk.
Other Ways to Prevent UTIs
One of the best things you can do is to stay as hydrated as possible. Drink as much water as you can, and urinate as much as you can. This helps to flush out any bacteria. Try to limit intake of diuretics, like caffeine and alcohol. These can hydrate you, ultimately making you more prone to UTIs.
It’s always good to remember to wipe front to back. In fact, your bowel habits (because E. coli lives in the digestive tract) can put you at further risk for UTI, if you’re not careful. If you’re prone to infection, also avoid using diaphragms as birth control, and choose feminine pads over tampons.
When Something Is Wrong
Even if you have done your absolute best to avoid recurrent UTIs, you may contract another one. Never ignore symptoms when you feel that something is wrong with your bladder, urethra, or kidneys. A simple bladder infection, if left untreated, can lead to a serious kidney infection in a matter of days. It is perfectly acceptable to visit an emergency room if you are experiencing pain urinating, or feel the beginning of a UTI.
If you continue to have recurrent UTIs and have been following prevention protocol, it’s time to have a talk with your doctor. There are additional hormonal or antibiotic therapies that can help improve your quality of life and prevent UTIs from causing you pain. If you want more information on recurrent urinary tract infections or need help with your recurrent UTI, The Woman’s Clinic can help. Schedule an appointment today at either of our two convenient locations in Jackson or Madison. We are physicians that care when it comes to all types of women’s health concerns.