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Preventing Painful Urinary Tract Infections

Cystitis is the medical term for a bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI). There are two basic types of cystitis: infectious and noninfectious. A UTI can be both annoying and painful. The most common form is infectious and a course of antibiotics is an effective treatment, however, if left untreated, serious complications like kidney infections or blood in the urine can occur.

While sexual activity, as well as menstruation may elevate a woman’s chances of contracting an infection, even young and sexually inactive girls are susceptible due to anatomy. In females, the urethra and anus are in close proximity. A urinary tract infection most often occurs when bacteria, such as E. coli, from outside your body gets introduced into your urinary tract through the urethra. Women have shorter urethras than men, which cuts down on the distance bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.

Preventing Painful Urinary Tract InfectionsWhat Are the Symptoms?

  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • A pinching or burning sensation when urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy and/or strong-smelling urine
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • A heavy feeling in the lower abdomen
  • Low-grade fever

Treatment

Bladder infections are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. Most of the time there are no complications, but if left untreated a bladder infection can move into the kidneys, which is not only more painful, it can put you at greater risk for kidney damage.

When you visit your AOA physician, you will be asked for a urine sample to determine if you have a bacterial infection. Additionally, your AOA healthcare provider will ask you a number of questions in order to best determine how the infection was contracted and how you can help prevent a reoccurrence. Questions may include:

  • Are you sexually active?
  • Do you use contraception and if so, what kind?
  • Might you be pregnant?
  • How long have you had the symptoms?
  • Have you had previous bladder or kidney infections?
  • How severe is your discomfort?
  • Have you seen any blood in your urine or are you experiencing any discharge?
  • How often do you feel the urge to urinate?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • What other medical conditions are you in treatment for?

Your answers will help the doctor determine the best treatment for you. If it is your first infection, you will probably feel significant improvement in your condition after a few days of antibiotics. If you have frequent infections, your AOA doctor may prescribe a longer course of antibiotics, or refer you to a urinary tract specialist.

How to Prevent Infections

There are some simple steps you can take to help prevent introducing bacteria into your urinary tract:

  • Drink lots of liquids, especially water.
  • Don’t put off urinating. When you feel the urge, don’t hold it.
  • Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.
  • Take showers rather than soaking in a tub.
  • Wash your genitals daily, but be gentle and don’t use a harsh or abrasive soap.
  • Avoid using any kind of feminine sprays or deodorant.
  • Urinate as soon as possible after intercourse.

Some anecdotal evidence exists that drinking cranberry juice can help prevent infections, however, do not drink cranberry juice or take tablets containing proanthocyanidin if you are taking the blood thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin) because interactions between the two can cause bleeding.

Learn more about infectious and noninfectious cystitis: