Lower urinary tract infections (often called a UTI) are very common, especially in women.
If you're a woman, your chance of getting a urinary tract infection (or UTI) is high. Your lifetime risk of getting one is as high as 50%, with many women having repeat infections, sometimes for years on end.Here's how to handle UTIs, whether you're experiencing your first or fifth infection, and how to make it less likely you'll get one in the first place.
What is a Urinary Tract?
Your urinary tract includes your bladder, kidneys, ureters (tubes that go from your kidneys to your bladder), and urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body from your bladder). It’s your body's drainage system for removing wastes and extra water.
If you have a UTI in your kidneys, doctors call it pyelonephritis. If it’s in your bladder, the medical term is cystitis.
What Causes UTIs in Women?
UTIs are a key reason we're told to wipe from front to back after going to the toilet. That's because the urethra - the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body - is located close to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, are in the perfect position to escape the anus and invade the urethra. From there, they can travel up to the bladder, and if the infection isn't treated, continue on to infect the kidneys. Women may be especially prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras, which allow bacteria quick access to the bladder. Having sex can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract too.
Symptoms of UTIs
To identify a UTI, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
Who Gets Urinary Tract Infections?
Anyone can. But they're more likely when you:
Most of these traits also raise the odds that a simple bladder infection may become a more serious kidney infection or turn into sepsis (an infection that has gotten into your bloodstream). For pregnant women, a kidney infection can lead to delivering a baby too early.
Tests and Treatments for UTIs
If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, you can make an appointment to see your doctor. You'll be asked to give a urine sample, which will be tested for the presence of UTI-causing bacteria.
Antibiotics to kill the intruders. As always, be sure to finish off the prescribed cycle of medicine completely, even after you start to feel better. And drink lots of water to help flush the bacteria from your system. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to soothe the pain, and a heating pad may also be helpful.
For non-complicated UTI’s, you will likely be prescribed trimethoprim for 3 days, or nitrofurantoin for 5 days.
How about Cranberry Juice?
Studies on the effectiveness of cranberry juice for preventing or treating UTIs have produced mixed results. The red berry contains a tannin that prevents E. coli bacteria - the most common cause of urinary tract infections - from sticking to the walls of the bladder, where they can cause infection. However, a 2012 review of 24 studies looking into the effectiveness of cranberry juice/extract on UTIs found they did not significantly reduce the incidence of UTIs.
How to Avoid UTIs?