Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are a common health problem. Millions of people, most of them women, get a UTI every year.
WHAT IS IT?
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria from the rectum is spread to the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder outside the body), the ureters (the tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder), and also to the bladder itself, which is called cystitis (pronounced SIS-ti-tis).
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
UTIs may be sexually transmitted. They are most common in men and women who are sexually active. UTIs are more common for women than for men; a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, so it is easier for the bacteria to get to the bladder. A woman’s urethra is also closer to the anus than a man’s urethra is.
In general, UTIs can occur after any sort of sexual contact that could bring the rectal bacteria into contact with the vagina or urethra. This can occur during anal sex, especially if a couple switches back and forth between vaginal and anal intercourse. It can also occur during vaginal intercourse and other kinds of sexual activity. Some women who use diaphragms as their birth control method find that they get frequent UTIs. UTIs can also occur when if a person has a new sexual partner. An increase in sexual activity can cause a UTI, especially in women. Women who are not sexually active can get UTIs if they wipe themselves from back to front (rather than front to back) after going to the bathroom. Once a person gets a UTI, they are more likely to get UTIs in the future.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The common symptoms of UTIs are:
o Burning or pain during urination (while peeing)
o The urge to urinate frequently
o Feeling the need to urinate even when the bladder is empty
o Lower back pain or abdominal pain
o Blood or pus in the urine
If a person has any of these symptoms and they last for a day or more, s/he should contact a health care provider right away.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
A person with the symptoms of a UTI should seek medical advice. For most people, a 3- or 7-day course of antibiotics will clear up the infection. There is also a medication called Pyridium, which can help relieve some of the symptoms. This medication must be taken with antibiotics, as it alone will not cure the infection. Many clinicians advise people with UTIs to drink plenty of water and unsweetened cranberry juice, in addition to taking the antibiotics.
If a UTI is left untreated, serious health problems could result, including kidney infections and more. Pregnant women with UTIs must get treatment immediately (and make sure to tell the health care provider that they are pregnant.)
There are some people who are very prone to UTIs and get them frequently. Health care providers might put these people on preventive antibiotics – medications that they can take to keep from getting a UTI.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM IT?
There are a number of things people can do to reduce their risk of developing a UTI, like:
o Drinking plenty of water (at least 8 glasses a day)
o Regularly drinking unsweetened cranberry juice (or taking cranberry supplements)
o For women, urinating (peeing) immediately before and after every act of intercourse
o Using condoms for every act of intercourse
o For women, wiping from front to back after going to the bathroom
o Avoiding sexual positions that trigger UTIs
o Never switching back and forth from anal to vaginal sex without using a new condom.