Having a urinary tract infection, commonly referred to as a UTI, can disrupt an individual’s life in a great many ways. The symptoms may run from mild to debilitating, but even mild symptoms get in the way of every day life. Many people swear by drinking lots of fluids, especially water, both to rid themselves of an infection and to prevent a UTI in the first place.
What causes a UTI?
A UTI occurs when there is an excess of bacteria – or, in some cases, fungi – somewhere in the urinary tract. Typically, a UTI is caused by bacteria entering the urethra and traveling upward through the urinary tract. Most infections settle in the urethra, with the bladder being the second most likely spot. However, UTIs can appear in the ureters and even in the kidneys, at which point there are additional dangers.
The most common cause of a UTI is E. Coli, which is the bacteria sometimes found in contaminated chicken and other livestock. E. Coli mainly thrives in excrement, and sometimes, this travels from the anus to the urethra, impacting the urinary tract in a very negative way. In some cases, the bacteria reach the bladder and proliferate in standing urine, especially if someone is having difficulty fully emptying the bladder.
Symptoms of a UTI
Most of the symptoms of a UTI are fairly common and easily noticed. While these symptoms could be related to other conditions, the grouping of them together typically signal an infection.
- Frequent, persistent, and urgent need to urinate, sometimes with very little results
- Inability to empty the bladder, leading to feeling the constant need to urinate or pressure in the lower abdomen and pelvis
- Burning or pain when urinating, as well as odorous, cloudy, or discolored urine
- Mild to high fever, depending on how bad the infection is and where it is located
- Pain in the lower back and flanks if advanced to the kidneys
In some cases, if the UTIs are recurring, a longer course of antibiotics over several months may be required, or the physician may put the patient on a very low dose of continuous antibiotics. There are, however, other ways to help the process go faster.
Additional treatments for urinary tract infections
The symptoms of a UTI can really destroy quality of life, and patients want to return to the status quo as quickly as possible. Since antibiotics don’t work immediately, someone with a UTI make want to seek out other options to help control those symptoms so that they can get on with normal daily activities.
This brings up the question about liquids and especially water. The answer isn’t simple.
Hydrating properly can help the body flush out the infection faster. Drinking more helps produce more urine, which in turn removes the bacteria from the urinary tract. And when it comes to water, this is the best solution to assist in the process. It’s recommended that adults drink six to eight, eight-ounce glasses of water every day, with or without a UTI. This may be increased, should the person want to help remove the infection faster.
Some other fluids may also help, mainly clear liquids and some juices. For example, there is no harm in drinking cranberry juice, though it is not proven to help a person heal from an infection.
At the same time, there are fluids that should be avoided when a UTI is present because they can worsen symptoms and actually feed the bacteria. For example, a lot of sugary drinks such as Kool-Aid and sodas, are not recommended, since sugar both irritates the urinary tract and can aid bacteria in growing. Also, caffeine is an irritant that can cause issues with being able to urinate properly and could exacerbate symptoms of a UTI.
There are many things to do to help prevent a UTI from occurring in the first place, and staying properly hydrated is perhaps the most crucial. If a person doesn’t consume enough water, it’s easy for bacteria to settle into the bladder and grow, with the person not needing to urinate frequently enough to truly keep the bladder empty.
In the case of prevention, cranberry juice could play a role as well. The antioxidants found in cranberry juice are believed to coat the bladder wall in a way that prevents bacteria from latching on and proliferating.
Other ways to help prevent a UTI include:
- Wiping from front to back to avoid transferring E. Coli from the anus to the urethra
- Cleaning before and after sex to avoid bacteria transfer
- Urinating immediately after sex
- Urinating as soon as the urge hits rather than holding it in
- Emptying the bladder every time a person visits the bathroom
- Avoiding large amounts of sugar in the diet, as well as reducing caffeine intake
- Changing tampons and sanitary napkins often
No one wants to battle a urinary tract infection, and people certainly don’t want to end up in a hospital bed on IV antibiotics and a fluid drip because they’ve let the bacteria reach the kidneys and cause excess damage. Taking steps to prevent UTIs and seeing a physician at the early warning signs of having one can go a long way in maintaining good health as well as avoiding irritating and even painful interruptions in daily life. Focusing on things like work and family are nearly impossible when struggling with a UTI, so seeking help and taking the full course of medication prescribed are essential to continued happiness.