The Ins and Outs of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)


Your first UTI might make you feel like you’re dying, but trust us, it’ll pass. And you know what will make it better? If you actually know what you’re going through, what caused it, and what the best ways to treat it are.

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What’s a UTI?

A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is an infection that can occur in any part of the urinary system, such as the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra. It's typically caused by bacteria entering the urethra and multiplying in the urinary tract. The most common type is a bladder infection.

How common are UTIs among women?

You're not alone if you've ever experienced a UTI. According to research, 50% to 60% of women will get one of these clinical bacterial infections at some point in their lives. Actually, recurrent UTIs—defined as having two or more UTIs in a six-month period or three in a year—are thought to affect 20% to 30% of young women. 

Anyone, regardless of gender and age, can experience a UTI. However, women are more prone to UTIs because the shorter length of the female urethra makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. 

What are the most common causes of UTIs?

While sexual activity is a common factor associated with UTIs, there are various other causes.

  • Wiping yourself from back to front can create a direct path for bacteria to enter the urinary system.
  • The use of irritating products inside your vagina, such as scented soaps and harsh detergents, can disturb the delicate balance, offering a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Urine retention, a habit of holding in pee for extended periods, provides bacteria with prolonged access to the urinary tract, increasing the risk of infection.
  • A weakened immune system, often due to stress or illness, compromises the body's ability to fend off bacteria in the urinary system.
  • Dehydration, or insufficient water intake, allows bacteria to linger longer in the urinary tract, emphasizing the importance of staying well-hydrated.
  • Hormonal changes during menopause can alter the bacterial balance in the urinary tract, making infections more likely. 

What are the symptoms of UTIs? 

According to Mayo Clinic, UTI symptoms include:

  • A strong urge to urinate that doesn't go away
  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • Urinating often, and passing small amounts of urine
  • Urine that looks cloudy or appears red or bright pink (signs of blood in the urine)
  • Unusually strong or unpleasant smell in your urine
  • Painful bowel movement
  • Pelvic pain, especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
  • General muscle ache or soreness 

How do you treat a UTI?

Leaving a UTI untreated can cause a more serious infection, so always make sure you’re getting medical help. Your doctor will ask you to do a urine test before prescribing the appropriate antibiotics that work best against the bacteria responsible for your infection.

Make sure to complete the entire antibiotic course even if you start feeling better. Skipping doses or stopping too soon might allow some bacteria to survive, leading to a recurrence of the infection.

Drinking plenty of water can also help flush out bacteria, and over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to alleviate discomfort.

How can I prevent a UTI?

  • Urinate after sex. Every. Single. Time.
  • Drink plenty of water. This will help you urinate more often and allow bacteria to flush out regularly.
  • Always wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus to the vagina and urethra.
  • Avoid using irritating products in your vagina, like scented and chemical lubes, douches, shower gels, and powders.
  • Consider incorporating unsweetened cranberry juice or supplements into your routine.
  • Empty your bladder regularly to minimize the time bacteria spend in your urinary tract.
  • Choose breathable underwear and avoid overly tight-fitting pants.
  • Introduce probiotics into your diet. These are found in foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso, and pickles.

A Final Note

UTIs are common and uncomfortable, yet entirely manageable. Never ignore a UTI as it may lead to further complications. Face it head on, seek help promptly, and ensure you complete your treatment.

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