If you’re dealing with a urinary tract infection (UTI), you’re not alone. At least 10 million women experience UTIs, and for about one-quarter of these women, the pain and discomfort become a recurring problem.
The board-certified providers at Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare in Fayetteville, Newnan, and Stockbridge, Georgia, specialize in diagnosing and treating onetime and recurrent UTIs.
Many of our patients ask us how they got their first UTI or why they keep getting these frustrating infections. To answer this and other UTI questions, we’ve put together this helpful guide.
What causes UTIs?
Your urinary system includes different organs, including your kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureter. You’re diagnosed with a urinary tract infection if any part of your urinary system gets infected.
About 90% of UTIs are caused by bacteria that naturally occurs in your intestines, called Escherichia coli (E. coli). This bacteria is a wonderful thing for your gut health, but if it gets into another part of your body, you can get sick.
E. coli can get into other parts of your body if you come in contact with it from other people, animals, or contaminated foods and water. It can also move from your rectum to your vagina during sexual activity or when you use the restroom.
If you get two or more UTIs within six months, you’re diagnosed with recurrent UTIs. Factors that increase your risk of getting UTIs more frequently include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Engaiging in frequent sexual activity
- Engaging in new sexual activity
- Using certain forms of birth control, such as spermicide or a diaphragm
- Having multiple children
- Having diabetes or other health issue that make you more susceptible to infection
- Having a condition that blocks the flow of urine, such as kidney stones or a narrow urinary tract
- Older age (vaginal pH after menopause)
- Taking certain medications, such as some decongestants
- Not peeing after engaging in sexual activity
- Not wiping the right way after a bowel movement (always wipe front to back)
- Using scented toilet paper or feminine products
Your risk of having recurrent UTIs also increases if you have a personal history of UTIs.
How can I tell if I have a UTI?
The best way to determine whether you have a UTI is by visiting a medical provider who can test your urine. This is because other conditions can share symptoms with UTIs.
It’s helpful to know what to look for, however. The following signs can be an indicator of a UTI:
- Frequent urge to urinate (often urgently)
- Feeling like you need to pee even after emptying your bladder
- Pain, pressure, or burning sensations when urinating
- Changes in the smell or appearance of your pee, such as bloody or cloudy urine
- Pain in your low back, sides, or abdomen
The good news is that it’s easy to treat UTIs with antibiotics. If you don’t get medical treatment, however, your UTI might spread to your kidneys. This can cause a kidney infection. Kidney infections are harder to treat and can trigger serious complications.
What should I do about my UTI?
At Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare, your provider reviews your medical history, UTI history, and talks to you about any lifestyle factors that might contribute to your UTI. For most women, treatment includes a prescription antibiotic.
If you’re struggling with recurring UTIs, your provider may make additional recommendations or prescribe a low-dose antibiotic for a long period of time (6-24 months). If your provider thinks sex may be the cause of your UTIs, they may recommend taking an antibiotic every time you engage in sexual activity.
For women in menopause, your Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare provider may also recommend vaginal estrogen therapy. This treatment can help restore the natural pH balance of your vagina, which offers natural protection from UTIs.
Lifestyle changes can also help stop UTIs. For example, simply going to the bathroom and urinating as soon as possible after sex reduces your risk of infection. Other lifestyle changes that can stop chronic UTIs include:
- Wiping front to back
- Taking showers instead of baths
- Washing your anus and genitals with soap every day
- Urinating more often (don’t hold it in)
- Staying hydrated
You can also try drinking small amounts of unsweetened cranberry juice. Some studies show that natural compounds in cranberries help protect against UTIs.
If you have a UTI and want treatment, or if you want direction on preventing UTIs, call 770-991-2200 or book an appointment online with Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare today.