Everything You Need To Know About Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTI causes, symptoms, risk factors, and more!
PHOTO: istockphoto

If you’re a woman, you’ve probably had a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in your life; after all, it’s more common among women than men—lovely, huh? A UTI is an infection that occurs in the urinary system, which covers your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys, though most infections occur in the first two areas.

A burning sensation when you pee is a clear indicator that you’re suffering from a UTI. The sensation can be annoying, but it can also be extremely painful, like, end-up-in-a-hospital painful. The good news is that a UTI can be easily treated, but wouldn’t it be better to know how to avoid getting them in the first place? Read on.

UTI Causes

The main cause of a urinary tract infection is bacteria. The urinary system is designed to block bacteria from coming in, but sometimes, those little suckers just get through. A UTI is a result is the result of bacteria entering through the urethra and multiplying. When that happens, it can develop into an infection. As previously mentioned, infections are usually found in the urethra (urethritis) and the bladder (cystitis).

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What is cystitis? This type of UTI is caused by E.coli, which is a bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract. Though you don’t have to be sexually active to catch this, it usually develops after sex. This is because the urethra is located so near the anus as well as the urethral opening to the bladder.

What is urethritis? Urethritis may develop when gastrointestinal bacteria spreads from the anus to the urethra. Because of this proximity, STIs like herpes and chlamydia can cause urethritis.

Why Women Are More At Risk

Most women have urinary tract infections more than once during their lifetimes. Here’s why:

  1. Anatomy. Women have shorter urethra than men, which means it’s closer to the anus—taking bacteria on a shorter ride before it reaches the bladder.
  2. Sex. Especially when you have a lot of it (because it isn’t enough that we’re still slut-shamed for having libidos, lol). The more sexually active you are, the more at risk you are of developing a UTI. This also applies if you frequently switch sex partners.
  3. Menopause. When women go through menopause, the production of estrogen slows down, which means you’re less protected, making your urinary system more vulnerable to infections.

Common Symptoms Of A UTI

  1. Always having to pee. Perhaps the most common indicator that you’ve got a UTI is the urge to pee—all the time.
  2. Peeing, but very little. And when you get to the bathroom, not a lot of pee comes out, even if just a few seconds ago, you felt like your bladder was about to burst. Even after peeing, you may still feel like you have to go.
  3. There’s a burning sensation. Ouch! When it hurts when you pee, you usually don’t need a doctor to tell you it’s a UTI. It’s different for every person: It can feel uncomfortable to downright painful.
  4. You feel pressure in your pelvis. Or sometimes, pain. When this happens, that means the lining in your urinary tract is inflamed or irritated. Don’t ignore this feeling: If you get a fever soon after, it could mean your kidneys are also infected.
  5. Weird pee. A urine or bladder infection can affect the way your pee smells. It can also make it look cloudy. For some, there’s blood found in the pee as well, but this doesn’t happen all the time.

How To Prevent UTIs

  1. Drink a lot of water. No, water doesn’t have a magical ingredient that’ll keep you from getting a UTI. But it will force you to pee often, which means getting rid of any bacteria in your urinary tract.
  2. Wipe the right way. Most people don’t know this but there’s actually a correct way to wipe right after you pee: It’s front to back. Your anus, which may be covered in E.coli, is too close to your urethra. When you wipe back to front, you run the risk of bringing that bacteria to your urethral opening.
  3. Don’t hold your pee. People who don’t want their work flow or productivity interrupted are guilty of this. Apart from the fact that it’s generally uncomfortable to hold your pee, it’s also really bad for your urinary system. When pee is held in the bladder for too long, bacteria can grow and develop into an infection.
  4. Pee after sex. This might sound like a myth, but it’s actually necessary! During sex, there’s a lot of pushing that happens in that area, which means bacteria may have been pushed up near the urethra. Peeing after sex flushes the bacteria out. If, for some reason, you don’t feel like peeing, drink water and force it out.
  5. Avoid scented products. Yes, you read that right. Scented products near your vagina is a big no-no. Scented pads, washes, or even powders could irritate your urethra, and while some don’t experience any side effects, these things might be the reason why you have a UTI every couple of months. Switch to fragrance-free products to see if it makes a difference.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • Based on my symptoms, what do you think caused my UTI?
  • What other possible causes are there?
  • What type of tests will you conduct to reach a diagnosis?
  • What factors contributed to my UTI?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • What are the side effects of your chosen treatment?
  • Is there any chance it could come back after I stop the treatments?
  • How can I keep this from happening again?

So, Can Drinking Cranberry Juice Cure Your UTI?

There probably isn’t a woman in the world who hasn’t heard this before: Cranberry juice is the secret cure to your UTI. But does it really work?

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Before, researchers thought that the acidity of cranberry juice is powerful enough to destroy bacteria that’s traveled to your bladder before it becomes a full-blown infection. After that myth was debunked, experts then thought that an ingredient in cranberries could keep the bacteria from sticking to your bladder. But no one has confirmed its effectivity.

Research are still being done on if cranberry juice is the answer to our prayers, but the verdict is still 50-50 today.

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