Nearly 10 million doctor visits every year are the result of one common, unpleasant culprit: urinary tract infections (also sometimes called cystitis or bladder infection).
According to the National Kidney Foundation, urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect one in five women at least once in her lifetime. Women who have had at least one recurring UTI are much more likely to have even more. In fact, nearly 20 percent of women who have had a UTI will have another one. Of those, about 30 percent will have a third, and of those 30 percent, an estimated 80 percent will have more recurrences. Repeated UTIs may be caused by another underlying health condition.
Urinary tract infections can be painful, uncomfortable and simply miserable. Here are some symptoms of a UTI to watch for:
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate, while only actually passing a few drops
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Ache, pressure or pain in the lower abdomen
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Urine with a strong odor
When a UTI is not treated quickly and effectively, the infection can spread to the kidneys and become more severe. Signs your UTI may have spread to the kidneys include:
- Lower back pain
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
The good news is that UTIs can be treated effectively with antibiotics. But why wait until you get a UTI if it could be prevented in the first place?
Here are some steps both men and women can take to help prevent UTIs:
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
- Drink cranberry juice, or consume other cranberry products or supplements. Research suggests that a certain compound found in cranberries can stop bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract wall.
- Do not wait to use the bathroom. If you feel the urge to urinate, do not try to hold it for a long period of time. Instead, find a restroom and relieve yourself.
- Avoid wearing clothing that is tight-fitting in the genital area. Choose cotton over synthetic fabric when possible.
- Choose showers over baths whenever possible. Soaking in a bath allows bacteria to enter the urethra, which may cause a UTI.
To prevent UTIs, women should also:
- Empty your bladder before going to bed.
- Cleanse the genital area daily and after sex.
- Wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria to the genital area.
- Wear pads rather than tampons.
- Do not douche and keep perfumed products (including scented powder) away from the genital area.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your doctor today. The earlier a UTI is diagnosed and treated, the less uncomfortable you will be and the faster you will recover.