Although a urinary tract infection (UTI) sounds like a scary diagnosis for those who have never experienced one, many women will experience them more than once in their lifetime.
The first signs of a UTI are the increased frequency and urgency of urination, and a burning sensation when you urinate. If you catch these symptoms early enough, you can prevent a full-blown infection. But when symptoms turn more serious and you see blood in the urine, or experience fever, nausea and vomiting, it is time to see a doctor.
“It is important to catch the infection early,” says Dr. Adeleke. “If left untreated, it can turn into a kidney infection or sepsis, which could lead to a much worse outcome.”
Why do people get UTIs?
“A UTI occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra into the bladder,” says Dr. Adeleke. “Pyelonephritis, or a kidney infection, is when the same bacteria climb higher up to the kidney.”
You are more likely to get UTIs if you:
- Recently had sexual intercourse
- Have diabetes
- Recently used spermicide
- Are an older adult, especially if you live in a nursing home
- Are pregnant
“If you are pregnant, having a UTI is more serious,” warns Dr. Adeleke. “If a woman is pregnant and has a kidney infection, she may need to be hospitalized so she can receive intravenous antibiotics.”
The easiest way to avoid building bacteria in your urinary tract is to drink plenty of fluids — water being the best for a UTI. “Everyone should drink at least eight glasses of fluid a day, excluding sodas and caffeinated and alcoholic drinks in that total,” says Dr. Adeleke. “With a UTI, it is best to avoid soda and orange juice.” By drinking enough fluids, you will regularly be flushing any bad bacteria from your system, leaving less chance for the bacteria to grow.
To prevent the growth of bacteria in your urinary tract, it is important to practice good vaginal hygiene. This includes wiping from front to back after urinating or a bowel movement, not using scented soaps directly on your vagina, and frequently changing your underwear.
“It is also important to head to the bathroom after having sex,” says Dr. Adeleke. “If possible, take your time going to the bathroom and drink some water after intercourse to assist in flushing out the bacteria.”
“You can use an over-the-counter medication, such as Azo® (phenazopyridine), that numbs the bladder and provides some relief while you wait for your appointment,” says Dr. Adeleke. “Note that this will not treat the infections and it will turn your urine orange, so do not be alarmed.”
Fact: Reducing or eliminating the use of caffeine and alcohol until you are treated for your UTI will help reduce some of the symptoms.
Fiction: “Cranberry juice has not been shown to treat or prevent a UTI,” says Dr. Adeleke. “Some studies show that cranberry capsules can help prevent a UTI, but more studies are needed before making this kind of recommendation.”
Fact: Drink plenty of fluids, and drink extra when you feel these symptoms coming on until you are treated.
Treat with antibiotics
Dr. Adeleke suggests making an appointment with your doctor if you feel the symptoms, especially the more severe ones, for a prescription of antibiotics. “The antibiotic course ranges from three to seven days, sometimes longer if there is concern for a more serious infection,” she says.
If your Sharp doctor has treated you for a UTI before, use FollowMyHealth to inquire if a prescription can be sent to your pharmacy without an office visit.