Get the scoop on what causes these common, but irritating, infections.
Unfortunately for women, they are more likely to get urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men. One of the main reasons is that women have shorter urethras—the tube that allows urine to leave the body—so bacteria trying to get inside your body and make you sick don’t have as far to travel to reach their goal.
UTIs occur when bacteria make it into the urinary tract. Infections can happen after intercourse, when the bladder isn’t completely emptied or when bacteria make it to the urethra some other way. In addition to women being at higher risk, people who live with diabetes, who are obese or have had a UTI in the past also have an increased risk of contracting this infection.
Symptoms of a UTI include:
- Feeling the need to go, but being unable to
- Having the urge to urinate more often than usual
- Burning or painful feelings when you do urinate
- Urine that is dark, cloudy, bloody or has a strong smell
It’s important to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, as painful urination can be a sign of other concerning conditions as well. UTIs are diagnosed by testing your urine sample for red and white blood cells and for bacteria, none of which should be in normal urine. When left untreated, UTIs can lead to infections in other parts of the body and, in pregnant women, can increase the risk for high blood pressure or early delivery.
Don’t Feel the Burn
Unfortunately for UTI sufferers, home treatment isn’t really an option. Because they are bacterial infections, UTIs need to be treated with antibiotics, and taking the entire prescribed amount is important to prevent one from returning. The good news is, once you start those antibiotics, you’ll likely start feeling better in a day or two.
To prevent a UTI, try:
- Staying well-hydrated
- Wearing cotton underwear
- Limiting how frequently you wear tight-fitting pants
- Wiping from front to back after using the restroom
- Avoiding deodorant sprays, douches and powders
One contentious prevention and treatment method for UTIs is drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements. There’s no significant research currently that proves these methods are effective, but researchers have found that they may help in some circumstances. In short—drinking cranberry juice or taking a cranberry supplement won’t hurt you and might be worth trying (just watch the sugar content of your favorite cranberry juice), but don’t depend on those strategies as your sole method of prevention.