What is a urinary tract infection and how can you prevent one?

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2024

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is common, but often uncomfortable, painful and annoying! The symptoms can come on suddenly and keep you in the bathroom, leaving you to miss out on your everyday routine. Fortunately, not only are UTIs treatable, but they are preventable as well.

What is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection in the urinary system and is more common among women than men. Most infections occur in the bladder and urethra. If the UTI spreads to the kidneys, the condition becomes more serious.

Understanding the Symptoms of a UTI

UTIs can cause symptoms such as:

  • Pelvic, side, abdominal and/or lower back pain
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Cloudy or bloody urine with a foul odor
  • Frequent urge to urinate

How can a UTI be prevented?

You can do things on the front end to prevent a UTI before it starts – try incorporating some of these habits into your routine:

  • Stay hydrated.
    Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, causes you to urinate more often. Urinating more often helps to flush out any bacteria in the urinary tract.
  • Try cranberry supplements.
    Drinking cranberry juice is a commonly heard of home remedy for a UTI, however, you must drink a lot to get the benefit. Most patients prefer to take a high-dose cranberry supplement. Look for one with at least 36mg of proanthocyanidins (PACs) – the beneficial ingredient in cranberry.
  • Use fragrance-free laundry detergents and personal care products.
    While we often love for our laundry and body wash to smell like a field of fresh flowers, fragrance is a very common skin irritant. Skin irritation can increase the risk of UTI, so avoiding fragrance in these products is best.
  • Watch how you wipe.
    For women, wiping from front to back reduces the spread of bacteria to the urethra.
  • Urinate after sex.
    If you are sexually active, urinating after sex can flush out any bacteria in and around the urethra, preventing the spread and risk of infection.

When should I see a doctor?

While the symptoms of a UTI can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, you should see a doctor to prescribe antibiotics to target the source of the infection. You should seek emergency medical care if you have UTI symptoms and develop fever, severe back pain, and nausea/vomiting, as these symptoms could indicate a serious kidney infection.

Someone with persistent UTI’s – two or more in six months, or three or more in 12 months – should be evaluated by a physician. Your doctor may suggest testing a sample of your urine, examining your bladder with a camera (also called a cystoscopy) or performing an ultrasound of the bladder and kidneys to evaluate any underlying issues.

Persistent UTI’s can be a reason for women to see a urogynecologist – a specialized physician with training in both gynecology and urology. NGPG Urogynecology is accepting new patients and can help create a treatment plan at one of our two convenient office locations. Find your nearest location, and complete our online form or call the office to schedule an appointment!