Urinary tract infections, also referred to as UTIs, are infections involving the urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidneys. They are painful, frustrating, and have a tendency to ruin your day. Suffering from recurring UTIs multiplies the aggravation. Sadly, once someone has had one they are more likely to repeat the experience.
If you’ve had a urinary tract infection, then you are familiar with the symptoms
- The urgent, frequent desire to urinate
- The awful burning associated with urination
- The color change in the urine; white, cloudy, or even red if blood is involved
- The inability to completely empty the bladder mixed with small urine output
- The aching sensation in the pelvic region or lower back
Ninety percent of urinary tract infections are caused by the bacterium known as E. coli. It lives in our bodies naturally but is most prominent in the digestive system. In women, it can easily be spread from the anus to the urethra due to the close proximity of the two areas. It doesn’t help matters that a female’s urethra is shorter than her male counterpart's, allowing a shorter traveling distance for bacteria.
A recurring urinary tract infection is diagnosed when a woman has had at least two positive cultures within six months or three in a year. These infections may be brought on by the introduction of new bacteria into the urinary tract or by bacteria that was not completely eradicated by a previous treatment. Bacteria can actually “hide” from antibiotics by clumping together and surrounding the cells with a protective wall. This is known as biofilm and it keeps antibiotics from destroying the bacteria, so a UTI can suddenly return once the immune system is compromised with antibiotics. Sometimes, the biofilm can even fool a urinalysis, because only free-floating bacteria can be detected.
Ten dos for recurring UTIs
No one wants to suffer from a urinary tract infection, especially repeatedly. Precautions can be taken. They, of course, are not a guarantee against new or recurring UTIs, but the following dos may lessen the risks.
- Stay hydrated at all times. Six to eight glasses (eight ounces each) are the recommended. Water flushes out bacteria before it has a chance to multiply.
- Be sure to urinate as soon as possible after having intercourse. Once again, this flushes bacteria from the body before it takes hold.
- Empty the bladder completely. Don’t strain or force the flow but allow plenty of time to fully empty. Urine that sits in the bladder will have a chance to allow bacteria to grow and multiply.
- Wear underwear made of cotton. Cotton breathes and dries faster than synthetics.
- Eat healthy. You will be giving the body the power it needs to fight off infections.
- Women who have reached menopause may need to consider estrogen replacement therapy. Estrogen has been known to protect against bacterial contamination in the urethra and vagina.
- Good hygiene is a must. Wash the genital area with mild soap or plain water daily. Wash before and after sexual encounters as well. Once the bacteria have been washed away, it cannot cause an infection.
- Remember to wipe from front to back. This way a patient can lessen the chance of contaminating the urethra with E. coli from the anus.
- Consider the choice of birth control. Some studies show that spermicidal jelly, diaphragms, and unlubricated condoms may irritate the vagina and make the chances of getting a urinary tract infection higher.
- Underlying health issues make the body more susceptible to UTIs. Do your best to keep chronic illnesses, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis under control.
Ten don’ts for recurring UTI sufferers
Patients can’t consider dos without adding the contrasting don’ts. The more people take care of the body the less likely they are to continue having recurring urinary tract infections.
- Do not skip a visit to the doctor. Only a doctor can complete a variety of tests and cultures that not only prove patients are suffering from a UTI, but give a clue to the best treatment and the true cause behind it the infection. Sometimes, there are blockages, or malformations in the urinary tract that add to the chances of recurring UTIs.
- Don’t mistake the symptoms of another condition for a urinary tract infection. Similar symptoms are involved when patients have diabetes, vulvovaginitis, an STI (sexually transmitted infection), kidney stones, prostatitis (men only), urethral stricture, bladder cancer, or a diet high in vitamin D or phosphorus.
- Don’t overdo the intake of sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. All of these significantly raise the chances of a UTI.
- Don’t douche as often, preferably not at all. Douching can “upset” the bacteria in the vagina, and it changes the PH balance. This gives bacteria a fighting chance to multiply.
- Don’t switch from anal to vaginal sex without a thorough washing in between. Change condoms if you are using one, but wash before donning the clean one. This way you aren’t spreading E. coli to the vagina.
- Don’t ignore an STI. If it is possible that you have one, and if someone is having sex, then it’s always possible. Get tested. Quick treatment will help avoid adding a urinary tract infection to the mix.
- Don’t use scented feminine products such as deodorant sprays, powders, and pads. The perfume causes irritation, which in turn causes inflammation.
- Don’t hold in urine. Go to the restroom when you feel the urge. Holding in urine lets it get denser and breeds bacteria.
- Don’t sit in the tub for long periods of time. You are sitting in the bacteria washed off your body. Shower instead, and let the bacteria go down the drain.
- Don’t discontinue the antibiotics when you start to feel better. Finish all of it. Stopping too soon allows leftover bacteria to multiply and a UTI will return. This misstep also makes bacteria antibiotic resistant.