A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection that impacts any part of the urinary system, including the bladder, kidneys, ureter, and urethra. Typically, symptoms of a UTI develop when bacteria travels up the urethra and into the bladder.
10 in 25 women and 3 in 25 men will develop a UTI at least once. As a result, UTIs result in 8 million visits to the doctor’s office annually. (1)
There are a variety of factors that can increase the risk of developing UTIs. In general, women are much more likely to develop a UTI than men, primarily because women have shorter urethras, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. (2)
Some other risk factors include (3):
- Low estrogen levels that can result when women go through menopause.
- Sexual intercourse which can push bacteria into the urethra.
- Using diaphragms or condoms with spermicide can cause higher rates of UTIs in women.
- Anatomical abnormalities that harbor bacteria or make bladder emptying difficult.
- A challenged immune system that makes it difficult for your body to fight off infection.
- A genetic predisposition that makes the body more susceptible.
If you’ve had a UTI before, you know that the symptoms are pretty hard to miss.
Patients experience a myriad of bothersome symptoms including:
- Burning while urinating.
- The persistent urge to urinate, even if you’ve just emptied your bladder.
- Frequent urination of small amounts.
- Cloudy or pungent urine.
- Pelvic pain (primarily for women).
We do not advise attempting to treat UTIs at home. While the classic home remedy of drinking 100% cranberry juice is not going to hurt your condition, it’s also not proven to cure UTIs.
If you experience any of the above symptoms of a UTI we recommend consulting your doctor promptly. Ignoring UTI symptoms can cause the condition to worsen and spread to your kidneys which can lead to much more serious health complications. It’s best to catch and treat UTIs as early as possible before they reach too far into the urinary tract.
UTIs are a serious, but very treatable condition. When you visit your doctor, you will likely be instructed to give a urine sample that will then be analyzed to look for blood cells or bacteria. In some cases, your physician may call for a urine culture in order to gain a better understanding of the bacteria causing your particular infection. A urine culture can help your doctor prescribe the appropriate and most effective antibiotic. (4)In most cases, antibiotics are the primary method used to treat UTIs. If you suffer from frequent UTIs, your doctor may do further testing to learn more about what is causing the infections. Your doctor may then take on an ongoing proactive approach to treatment, depending on your unique case. (4)
Preventing Recurrence (3)
Some people with anatomical or genetic causes might need to work closely with their physician to prevent the development of UTIs. However, these simple at-home strategies can help to reduce UTI risk in many cases:
- Drink plenty of water
- Empty your bladder fully when you feel the urge (don’t hold it!)
- Urinating after sex which can help to flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract
- Wipe from front to back to prevent spreading bad bacteria
- Consult your healthcare provider about your birth control options
UTIs are a fairly common condition and in most cases that are caught early, they can be remedied in just a few days with a round of antibiotics from your doctor. If you find yourself suffering from frequent UTIs, consider consulting a urologist or urogynecologist at Virginia Urology who can discuss your unique case and treatment options.