Urinary Tract Infection

WHAT IS IT?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria in the bladder (where urine collects) and the urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder). Sometimes it is called a bladder infection or cystitis. Although it is not usually a serious condition, symptoms of UTIs can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. If left untreated, the infection can potentially spread upwards to the kidneys, which can be much more serious.

Urinary tract infections are more common in women than men. The opening of the urethra is very close to the vaginal and anal openings. Along with shortness of the female urethra, this allows for the easy spread of bacteria from a woman’s vulva.

HOW WOULD I GET IT?

UTIs can be caused by irritation of the urethra from a few sources:

  • Long, energetic, or frequent vaginal intercourse
  • Spread of bacteria from the vagina, hands, anus, or penis
  • Use of a diaphragm for birth control may be a factor
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD IT?

Common symptoms or a urinary tract infection include a burning sensation during urination; need to urinate frequently, or a feeling of urgency; cloudy and/or smelly urine; blood in the urine; and/or lower back pain.

If you are experiencing symptoms, it is a good idea to visit a doctor and arrange to have a midstream urine sample sent to the lab. Results are usually available in 2-3 days.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

Sometimes if you recognize the symptoms early, you can get rid of the infection on your own. Here are some steps you could take:

  • Drink lots of cranberry, cranberry-apple, apple, plum, or prune juice (unsweetened to keep the pH of the urine acidic (minimum 4 glasses a day)
  • Avoid orange juice; it turns alkaline inside the body
  • Stop drinking coffee, tea, pop, beer, wine. Caffeine and stimulants worsen symptoms
  • Drink lots of water and urinate frequently (at least once every hour) to dilute the urine and relieve burning
  • Take Vitamin C; it is acidic and a natural diuretic that will cause you to urinate more frequently
  • Bathe twice a day, if possible, to keep the area clean and comfortable
  • Most importantly, make sure you drink lots of fluid and urinate frequently!

If you cannot get rid of the infection on your own, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics.