A Urinary Tract Infection, UTI, will affect half of all women at some stage in their life. Not only are they super uncomfortable (seriously, ask any girl who’s had one) but left untreated can cause some serious damage.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. Most are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), typically found in the digestive system.
Left untreated, the bacteria can travel up the urethra causing a bladder infection (also referred to as cystitis) and then continue up to infect the kidneys (known as pyelonephritis). The infection can also spread to the vagina.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
When you have UTI, it’s likely you’ll know about it! Symptoms vary from person to person, but generally include the following:
- A painful burning sensation when passing urine
- Frequent sudden urges to urinate, then passing only a very small quantity
- Pain around the pubic bone or lower back
- Less usual, but the urine may contain blood or appear cloudy (this is more likely if the infection has progressed to the bladder or kidneys)
- If the infection has reached the kidneys, fever, nausea and even vomiting may occur
What do you do if you think you’ve got a UTI?
Around 25-40% of UTI’s will resolve themselves, but we’d suggest not risking those odds and getting yourself to your GP stat. If UTI’s go untreated they can spread to your bladder and kidneys making you pretty unwell.
How is a UTI diagnosed and treated?
In addition to asking about the symptoms listed above, your GP will ask to provide a urine sample that will be tested for bacteria. The usual treatment is a course of oral antibiotics with many doctors also prescribing medication to relieve the pain.
Drinking plenty of water is advised, and you should experience improvement in two to three days.
Are there any alternative treatments to antibiotics?
The short answer is ‘not really.’ There are old wives tales that suggest cranberries and Vitamin C do the trick, but actually there is no conclusive evidence to support either of these theories.
If you would like an alternate solution, it’s best to chat with your GP.
Who gets UTIs?
As if getting a period every month wasn’t enough, but half of us will also contract a UTI. Our urethra is shorter than a man’s which so the distance the bacteria has to travel to reach the bladder is much shorter. The risk of contracting a UTI is increased with:
- Genetic predisposition
- Sexual intercourse, especially high frequency and multiple partners
- Temporary or permanent mobility restrictions, such as multiple sclerosis or extended illness
- Conditions that affect urine flow, such as stroke, spinal cord injury and kidney stones
- Some forms of contraception
- Faecal incontinence
- Use of a catheter
- Poor hygiene
Although mostly affecting women, men can also get UTIs, as can babies and the elderly.
What if I get a UTI while I have my period?
You’ll want to keep the area as dry and cool as possible, so it’s recommended to use to tampons if you get a UTI on your period. They keep the bladder opening drier than pads. Pads will keep the bacteria pressed right up against your urethra. If you haven’t used tampons before, don’t stress, simply check out our blog on how to insert tampons.
How do I avoid a UTI?
We wish there was a magic formula for this! Unfortunately, there isn’t, but these helpful tips can help reduce the risk:
- Always pee after sex! Those scenes in the movies where they just snuggle afterwards, not real! Don’t do it! Peeing after sex will help flush away any bacteria.
- Drink plenty of water every day. It helps flush bacteria out of the urethra
- Empty your bladder when you feel the urge – don’t hang on. Try not to rush and make sure you’ve completely emptied your bladder. Some women find standing up and sitting down again can help with this
- When you’ve finished on the toilet, always wipe from front to back
- Have a shower instead of a bath
- Physical contraceptives such as condoms, IUDs, spermicides and diaphragms can contribute, so if you are suffering frequent UTIs, you might want to have a chat to your GP.
- Bacteria breed in warm, moist environments often created by synthetic fabrics and tight pants, so chose cotton underwear and looser clothing to keep the area dry and cool.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.