If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you know how miserable and bothersome the symptoms can be, especially when a UTI hits at the most inconvenient time.
Urinary tract infections are common, affecting men, women, and children. The condition reportedly accounts for more than 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers every year, according to the Urology Care Foundation. While UTIs are easily treatable, they are also easily preventable.
Let’s take a closer look at the best ways to prevent a urinary tract infection and avoid the painful, pesky symptoms altogether.
Everything You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infections
The best way to fully grasp how to prevent urinary tract infections is to understand what they are and where they originate. As you know, the urinary tract’s primary purpose is to make and store urine. The entire urinary tract consists of several parts, including the kidneys, bladder, and urethra.
Urine is made in the kidneys, fist-sized organs in the back that filter liquid waste from the blood and release it from the body in the form of urine.
It travels down the ureters to the bladder where it is stored until your body feels the urge to empty it. Urine is then drained through the urethra, a small opening at the end of the penis, or above the vaginal opening.
Normal urine has no bacteria in it because the one-way flow prevents infections. Bacteria, however, can still get into the urine by entering through the urethra and traveling up into the bladder.
As a urinary tract infection worsens, it could also enter the kidneys, causing a more severe medical condition. The most common type of urinary tract infection is a bladder infection.
Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of UTIs
The most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
- An intense urge to pee
- A burning feeling when you pee
- The need to frequently urinate, even when little to no urine comes out
- Cloudy urine
- Dark yellow, brown, pink, or red urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Fever or chills
- Pain or pressure in the back or lower abdomen
The most common cause of UTIs is when germs enter the urinary tract by coming in close contact with bacteria. This can happen:
- When wiping from back to front after you’ve had a bowel movement
- During sexual intercourse
- From using a diaphragm or condoms and spermicides
- From having a catheter
In addition to bacteria entering the urinary tract, UTIs can also be caused by:
- Waiting too long to empty the bladder, allowing germs the chance to grow
- Having a kidney stone that prevents you from adequately emptying the bladder
- Physical conditions that make it hard for the immune system to fight bacteria, like diabetes
Some patients are at higher risk of contracting a urinary tract infection. This includes:
- Older adults
- Patients with reduced mobility after surgery or prolonged bed rest
- Patients with a history of UTIs
- Patients with urinary tract obstructions or blockages, such as enlarged prostate or certain forms of cancer
- Pregnant women
- Patients with abnormally developed urinary structures from birth
Because the length and location of the urethra in women are shorter than men, women are more likely to get UTIs than men.
If you suspect you may have a urinary tract infection, your doctor will ask for a urine sample. They will analyze the sample and perform a urine culture in the lab to test for the presence of bacteria. In most cases, patients are prescribed an antibiotic to treat urinary tract infections.
10 Ways to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
The best way to deal with UTIs is to prevent infections altogether. Especially if you are someone who gets frequent urinary tract infections, you’ll want to stay clean and avoid irritation of the urethra. To minimize your risk and say goodbye to the unpleasant symptoms of UTIs, keep bacteria away with these prevention tips:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. This will give you the urge to urinate more often, flushing bacteria out of your urinary tract. Avoid liquids that dehydrate the body, such as tea, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages. Water is the best choice when it comes to hydration. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
- Avoid holding your pee. Make sure you urinate when you feel the urge to go. Holding your urine can encourage bacterial growth. Don’t wait more than 4 hours to go to the bathroom. This is particularly important for pregnant women.
- Wipe from front to back. The most common cause of UTIs is a bacteria called E. coli, commonly found in the rectum. Always wipe your genitals from front to back after using the bathroom. This decreases the risk of bringing bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
- Urinate before and after sex. Since we know that sexual activity increases the risk of getting a UTI, especially in women, it’s essential to flush out any bacteria that may cause UTIs before and after sex. To reduce your risk, pee immediately before and immediately after sex. If possible, gently wash before and after to minimize further risk of spreading bacteria.
- Avoid irritating feminine hygiene products. The vagina naturally contains over 50 healthy microbes of bacteria, used to keep the pH level balanced. Scented feminine products can disrupt healthy bacteria, leaving you at higher risk for the growth of harmful bacteria. Skip douches, scented pads or tampons, deodorant sprays, scented powders, bath oils, soaps, and any other potentially irritating products.
- Talk to your OB-GYN about your birth control options. In some cases, your birth control methods can be the cause of frequent UTIs. That’s because some types of birth control promote the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the urinary tract. Diaphragms, non-lubricated condoms, spermicides, and spermicide condoms have been known to be a source of the problem. If you think your birth control methods are causing frequent UTIs, talk with your doctor to explore your options.
- Take a probiotic. Over-the-counter probiotics are live microorganisms that increase good gut bacteria. They have also been known to promote the growth of good bacteria in the urinary tract, protecting you from getting a UTI. Probiotic supplements can be found at most drug or grocery stores.
- Avoid taking baths. If possible, take showers instead of baths. Sitting in dirty tub water is known to increase your risk of getting a UTI.
- Increase your intake of cranberries. Cranberries are known to be a traditional remedy for treating UTIs. That’s because the berries contain compounds called proanthocyanidins, known to prevent E.coli from adhering to tissues in the urinary tract. Pure cranberry juice or fresh or frozen cranberries are the best options. You can also find cranberry supplements in most local stores. Increasing your cranberry intake with the first sign of UTI symptoms can be particularly helpful in stopping the condition before it becomes a problem.
- Talk to your doctor about chronic UTIs. In some cases, long-term treatment options are necessary. Your doctor may prescribe a daily low dose of antibiotics for six months or longer. You may also need to take a single dose of antibiotics after having sex.
When to Visit an Urgent Care Nearby for Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
Sometimes even your best efforts to prevent a UTI don’t work. If you notice the common symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you should visit a doctor or urgent care nearby for treatment. University Urgent Care can perform a urinalysis to determine whether or not you have an infection. If your test is positive, our healthcare professionals can prescribe antibiotics and give you at-home treatment options to clear up the disease as quickly as possible.
Visit our facility seven days a week from 10 AM- 8 PM for all your urgent care needs. We’re conveniently located near the TCU campus in Fort Worth, Texas. Our team is available to provide quality medical care to anyone in the Fort Worth area. Book an appointment online or give us a call at (817) 439-9539 for fast, convenient medical treatment.