Urinary Tract Infections
Many women can relate to the discomfort and inconvenience of a urinary tract infection (UTI), as about half of us will experience at least 1 in our lifetime, many of us more than that. UTIs occur when bacteria gets into the bladder and leads to a bladder infection. The bacteria are able to travel from outside the body to the bladder via the urethra. The urethra in women is much shorter than in men and the bacteria in closer proximity, making UTIs mostly a women's problem.
Bacteria get introduced to the urethra from stool (this is the reasoning for always wiping “front to back”) or sexual activity, considering the close proximity to the vaginal area. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a UTI and should seek medical treatment:
- Burning when urinating, especially at the end of your stream
- Frequent and intense urge to urinate, even if very little urine comes out
- Pain/pressure in your lower back/lower abdomen
- Urine that is cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling
- Feeling tired or shaky
- Fever or chills (sign of a possible kidney infection)
A urine test can usually diagnose a UTI within a few minutes and treatments with an antibiotic along with the recommendation to drink a lot of water are initiated.
If you’ve ever had a UTI, you are most likely motivated to prevent another one! Here are some tips that go a long way in preventing further UTIs:
- When you feel the need to urinate, don’t delay! Don’t rush in the bathroom, make sure your bladder is empty when you’re through.
- After using the bathroom, wipe from front to back
- Drink lots of water
- Stay away from baths as soaking in the tub can make it easy for bacteria to enter the urethra. Take showers instead!
- Avoid feminine hygiene sprays, scented douches, and scented bath products as they can lead to irritation
- Clean genital area both before and after sex, as well as urinate following sex to flush away any bacteria that may have entered the urethra
- Be aware that use of a diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly can increase bacterial growth or cause irritation, making UTI symptoms more likely.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose fitting clothes. Tight jeans and nylon underwear can trap moisture, creating an environment where bacteria can easily grow.
Some women experience recurrent or chronic UTIs. Most often, this is caused by a different strain of bacteria and a different antibiotic can be used to treat it. In a small number of cases, however, the symptoms do not respond to a usual course of antibiotics and consultation with a health care provider is recommended. Other risk factors include women with structural abnormalities in the urinary tract, diabetes, compromised immune systems, kidney stones, MS, spinal cord injuries, and pregnancy.