UTIs, or Urinary Tract Infections, will affect most women at some point in their lifetime. UTI’s are recognized by the burning sensation they cause in the bladder or urethra (the tube that empties urine from the body) during urination, and the intense urge to urinate frequently – even if it is just a little amount. Some women may also leak urine during a UTI, even if that isn’t something they normally experience. Urine may also smell differently and appear cloudy or dark. UTI’s are not pleasant, but there are things you can do to prevent them.
The first thing you need to know is why UTIs happen. UTIs are caused by the presence of bacteria in the urinary tract, which can then travel up to the bladder. And, while the urinary tract does have several safe guards, which naturally help it to flush bacteria out, infections can still occur. Infections are more common in women primarily due to their anatomy. Bacteria from the bowel can easily sneak into the urethra because it is so close to the anus (This is why we wipe front to back people!), and women have much shorter urethras than men, which means bacteria can more easily get into the bladder. Certain conditions can make people more prone to UTIs – those who wear catheters may be at an increased risk since it is harder to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. And anyone who has trouble emptying his or her bladder completely can also be at risk. Sex can also contribute to UTIs since it can introduce new bacteria to the urethral opening.
The good news is that most UTIs don’t last long once treated. Since the main cause of a UTI is often the presence of bacteria, antibiotics are usually used to treat them, and take roughly 2-3 days to work. Drinking lots of water and fluids can also quicken your recovery time, because it helps you to flush out the bacteria out of your system.
Here are some tips to avoid UTIs altogether:
- Wipe front to back. Keeping the Urethra clean and avoiding contact with bacteria from the anus or bowel can help prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract in the first place.
- Drink lots of fluids. Staying hydrated and drinking lots of water each day will help flush out any bacteria that may be present.
- Urinate when you need to. Holding urine in the bladder for longer than necessary only increases the chance that bacteria will multiply and cause an infection.
- Urinate after having sex. This helps get rid of any bacteria that may be lingering from intercourse.
If you do get a UTI, see a doctor right away for treatment. If left untreated, the bacteria can sometimes make its way to the kidneys and cause a more serious infection.