Although they’re common, when you develop the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), your first stop should be your doctor’s office. Most often caused by bacterial infections, an untreated UTI can lead to serious complications, including kidney damage.
Fortunately, most UTIs are easily treated with a round of antibiotics, and there are practical, simple steps you can take to help decrease your odds of developing a UTI. Keep reading to discover what specialist Dr. Kohli has to say about UTIs and how you can help prevent them.
Women are much more likely than men to develop a UTI. This is often because of differences in anatomy, specifically a much shorter urethra. The urethra is the small tube that carries urine away from your bladder and out of your body.
Men have a relatively long urethra (about eight inches) that meanders from the bladder to the prostatic region before making its way through the penis and ending near the urethral meatus or opening at the tip of the penis.
As a woman, your naturally short (about two inches) and straight urethra descends directly from your bladder. This gives bacteria and other infectious agents easier access to your urinary tract. Its exit location, between the clitoris and vagina, also increases your urethra’s susceptibility to infections that can travel back up to your bladder.
From the bladder, an infection may eventually gain access to the rest of your urinary system, including your kidneys.
At Boston Urogyn, many of the lifestyle tips we suggest for helping prevent recurrent UTIs are focused on keeping the area around your urethral opening free of irritation as well as bacteria and other microorganisms that create infection.
It’s seriously just that simple. When you wipe from back to front, you transfer infection-producing microorganisms from your rectal and vaginal areas to the vulnerable urethral opening. And if you have daughters, teach them the front to back process as soon as you begin potty-training, so the habit is built-in.
It’s also important to stress the need to keep this region clean and dry, including the rectal area, to prevent irritation and infection. Children, as well as some adults, often fail to take the time to clean up appropriately after using the bathroom.
Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, is another simple measure you can take to help prevent frequent UTIs. Clear fluids dilute your urine and help ensure you’ll urinate frequently enough to flush bacteria from your bladder and urethra.
And because women are notorious for being able to hold their urine, which can cause bacterial overgrowth in your bladder, make sure you pee when you feel the urge. The average person urinates about 7-10 times a day.
Sexual intercourse can introduce bacteria through the urethra, and urinating afterward helps flush these microorganisms from your system. The water, should you need it, is to help provide enough urine to make the bathroom break worthwhile.
While we’re discussing sex and UTIs, if you are having problems with frequent infections and use a diaphragm or spermicide, it may be time to consider an alternate birth control method since both can increase your risk of developing UTIs.
Long soaks in the tub put you in direct contact with all that bacteria washing off your body. Bubble baths, feminine deodorants, douches, and powders can also irritate the urethra and may increase your risk of developing an infection.
Although all these measures will help decrease your odds of developing a UTI, nothing is 100% effective at stopping an infection. And you may have other issues, such as menopause, that are making you more susceptible to UTIs.
Simple over the counter treatments for UTI include D-Mannose and high concentrations cranberry extracts. Vaginal estrogen can help for treatment of recurrent UTIs in postmenopausal women. Sometimes, alternative medications including suppression antibiotics are needed. Before initiating treatment for recurrent UTIs, patients should have a full workup in the office to exclude treatable causes.
If you develop burning with urination, smelly or cloudy urine, or other common symptoms of a UTI, schedule an appointment at Boston Urogyn for evaluation and treatment.