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UTIs are a pain in the butt (though they’re a literal pain elsewhere), especially for women. At least 1 in 5 women will experience UTI complications in their lifetimes. What’s more, 20% of women who get a UTI are likely to experience another in their lifetime.
If you’re a woman, you should get well acquainted with this devilish infection, as it may have outsized importance to your health. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about UTIs, from UTI complications to risk factors and preventative tips.
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI), is an infection that occurs when foreign bacteria get into the urinary tract and multiply.
Most of the time, a UTI stays inside the bladder. Much of the time, the infection sorts itself out leaves the body in due time. But if left untreated, it has the potential to spread to the kidneys where the infection can become more serious.
To check for a UTI, your doctor will likely test a sample of your urine and check for bacteria in a process known as urinalysis. With this information, your doctor will be able to prescribe antibiotics that can effectively treat the specific bacteria infecting your urinary tract.
If you UTI infections are chronic, your doctor may refer you to a urologist. This doctor may conduct an ultrasound to examine your kidneys and the rest of your urinary tract to try to spot any issues.
If the infection does, in fact, travel up to the kidneys, this can create a condition called pyelonephritis, which can lead to fever and severe back pain. Aside from that, UTIs can lead to many different problems before they even get that serious.
UTIs often lead to a burning feeling when you urinate as well as produce an urge to urinate often. They can also make you feel fatigued and dizzy or weak.
UTIs are also frequently known to produce, cloudy, bloody, and/or smelly urine that is also frequently accompanied by a fever or chills.
If the UTI spreads to your kidneys, these symptoms will be exacerbated, adding nausea and vomiting on top of them.
UTI Causes & Risk Factors
Over 90% of the time, UTIs are caused by E. coli getting into the urinary tract. This bacteria is most frequently found in feces, which explains why women get UTIs at a much greater rate than men. Their urethras are much closer to their anus’, making it easier for E. coli to get into the bladder.
Sex is another potential hazard for those susceptible to UTIs, as the act can lead to further exposure to harmful bacteria.
Aside from those two inevitable acts – sex and pooping -, there are other risk factors as well.
People with health conditions that frequently block the urinary tract, like kidney stones, are more susceptible to UTIs. People who have trouble completely emptying their bladder due to injury or a separate condition are also more prone to infection.
Due to a lower circulation of estrogen, postmenopausal women are also more prone to UTIs. And as with any infection, people with weakened immune systems from conditions like HIV/AIDS or diabetes are more susceptible to UTIs.
Lastly, men with enlarged prostates are also more at risk for urinary tract infections.
For most women, treating a UTI is a simple as going to your doctor when experiencing the aforementioned symptoms and getting prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection.
Some women, however, experience chronic UTIs, which often occur as a result of bacteria other than E. coli. In these cases, the bacteria often form a community of cells that develop a resistance to antibiotics. From this “community” they can enter the body over and over again, infecting you repeatedly.
For these women, it is recommended that they take a low dose of antibiotic over a long period of time to fully detox your body, and prevent recurring UTIs. On top of that, many women may be recommended to take a singular dose of an antibiotic after sex. As we’ve mentioned, sex often instigates infection.
How to Prevent a UTI
The most important thing you can do to prevent a UTI if you’re a woman is to wipe from front to back when wiping after going to the bathroom. This way, you won’t be dragging any E. coli to your urethra from your anus.
When it comes to preventing UTIs, it’s all about keeping your genital area dry and clean. Aside from wiping front to back, here are a few more ways to keep yourself clean:
- Drink lots of water. This will ensure that you’re always emptying your bladder, preventing urine to sit for too long.
- Pick showers over baths. As we’ve mentioned, E. coli bacteria often live in your anus, and the last thing you want to do is create a wet breeding ground for the bacteria to travel to your urethra in the tub.
- Clean you and your partners’ genitals before sex. As we’ve mentioned, sex triggers infection, so the cleaner the better when bumping uglies.
- Urinate after sex. This will help your body flush out any bacteria that may have entered your urinary tract during sex.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing. This is an effort to keep your genitals dry. The cotton underwear will help wick away sweat and moisture and looser clothing will prevent you from sweating. This is especially important advice to heed during the summer months.
Need More Health Tips?
Urinary tract infections are no laughing matter. They lead to over 8 million hospital visits every year. And if left untreated, UTI complications can be pretty severe. But if you follow these preventative tips, you may be able to avoid a UTI entirely.
If you’d like more tips on how to live your best, healthiest life, check out the Health & Fitness section of our website. We’ve got a ton of information on how to keep your body running at its best.