Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
Approximately one out of every five women will experience a
urinary tract infection (UTI) during her life. Some will
experience many. Men get UTIs too, but not as frequently.
To understand why, you have to know about anatomy. Your
urinary tract is made up of your kidneys, bladder, ureters
(strawlike tubes), and urethra (the opening from which you
urinate). In most urinary tract infections, bacteria enter the
urethra, travel to the bladder, multiply, and travel to other
parts of the urinary tract (including the kidney).
In women, bacteria gain easy entry to the urethra as it is
massaged during intercourse and can cause a bladder infection,
Waiting too long before urinating following sexual intercourse
will increase the chance of infection, because bacteria that
enter the urethra have an opportunity to move farther up the
urinary tract. Women who use a diaphragm for birth control are
twice as likely to get a urinary tract infection. Pregnancy and
postmenopausal changes make you more prone to UTIs, as do
congenital abnormalities (urinary tract defects you were born
with), any obstructions in the flow of urine (like a kidney stone
or enlarged prostate), or having a history of urinary tract
Surprisingly, UTIs may show no symptoms. But usually, if
you've got one, you know it. Symptoms strike suddenly, without
warning, and include:
A strong desire
often than usual
A sharp pain or
burning sensation in the urethra while urinating
Blood in the urine
Feeling that the
bladder is still full after you've urinated
Soreness in the
abdomen, back or sides (if the infection involves the kidneys)
nausea, and vomiting (in more serious cases, where the infection
involves the kidneys)
If you wait too long to get treatment, the consequences can be
serious. Consult a physician if you experience any of the
symptoms that are mentioned above. By testing a sample of your
urine under a microscope and sending it out to be cultured, your
doctor can diagnose your problem.
UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Take all the medication
you're prescribed, as directed, even if the symptoms disappear.
Since a UTI is no picnic, you'll be glad to know you may be
able to prevent a repeat performance. Here's how:
If you're a
woman, you should wipe from front to back after using the toilet
to keep bacteria
away from the urethral
Drink plenty of
fluids to flush bacteria out of your system.
Empty your bladder
as soon as you feel the urge, to give bacteria as little time to
multiply as possible.
Empty your bladder
as soon as possible after intercourse, even if you don't feel the
underwear, to allow air to circulate freely and discourage the
kind of warm, moist
environment in which
Avoid using bubble
bath if you're prone to UTIs.