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Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

Women are four times more likely than men to contract a urinary tract infection or UTI. The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing waste and extra water. The system contains the two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder and the urethra. People with diabetes, those who need a tube to drain the bladder, or those with a spinal cord injury are also at higher risk of developing a UTI.

E.coli bacteria that live in the bowel cause most UTIs. Women have a shorter urethra than men, which makes it easier for the bacteria to make their way from the bowel to the bladder and the opening of the urethra is nearer to the vagina and the anus, where the bacteria live.

While most UTIs are not serious, they can be painful and may lead to serious problems. For example, if you have chronic kidney infections, they can cause permanent damage, or if bacteria enter the bloodstream, you can develop a life-threatening condition called septicemia.

You should see your AOA doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of several symptoms, including:

  • Burning sensation when you urinate
  • Frequent and intense urges to urinate, even if you don’t have much urine to pass
  • Pain in your back or side below the ribs
  • Dark, bloody, cloudy, or foul-smelling urine
  • Fever or chills

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and will take a sample of your urine for testing. The urine will be checked under a microscope for bacteria and white blood cells. Your body produces white blood cells to fight infection.

These infections are treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria responsible for the infection. Generally you will need to take the antibiotics for as long as a week or more, even after your outward symptoms subside. Be sure to follow your AOA doctor’s instruction and take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed.

So how do you avoid a UTI?

Drink lots of water helps flush bacteria from your system. Urinate often and when you first feel the urge. Urinate after sex to flush away any bacteria that may have entered your urethra during sex. When using the toilet, always wipe from front to back, particularly after a bowel movement. Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes to help keep the area around the urethra dry. Nylon underwear and tight jeans can trap moisture and create an environment for bacteria to grow.

In some cases, using a diaphragm or spermicide for birth control can provoke a UTI. If this is the case, you may want to switch to a new form of birth control.

See your AOA doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of a UTI. If you experience repeat infections, your doctor may order a variety of tests to see if there are other conditions affecting the health of your urinary tract.

Learn more about urinary tract infections: