The 411 on UTIs
Everything you need to know about UTIs
Between the feeling of having to pee all the time and the burning sensation when you do, having a UTI (urinary tract infection) is not fun. UTIs are a common bacterial infection. About 50-60% of women will have at least one UTI in their lives, and many more experience more than one.
What is a UTI?
A UTI happens when bacteria gets into the urinary tract from the urethra. Most UTIs only involve the lower urinary tract (urethra and bladder). However, while not as common, UTIs can involve the upper tract (the ureters and kidneys), which is more severe. While anyone can get a UTI, people with vaginas are more susceptible because of the shorter urethras giving bacteria a quicker path to the bladder.
Some of the most common causes of UTIs are:
- Sex: Sex can push bacteria into the urinary tract.
- Dehydration: When you’re dehydrated, you pee less which can lead to more UTIs because bacteria is not moving out.
- Holding in urine: Bacteria can get stuck in your urinary tract when you hold it in.
- Wiping back to front: Toilet paper can push bacteria into the urethra.
- Wearing wet clothes: Since bacteria thrives in moist environments, staying in wet bathing suits or sweaty workout clothes can lead to UTIs and even yeast infections.
Other health factors like genes, diabetes, hormone changes, kidney stones, or a stroke can also play into it as they cause some people to be more prone to UTIs.
Keep in mind that some UTIs don't necessarily show symptoms, but when they do they may include:
- A persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Pelvic pain
- Urine that looks cloudy, dark or even bloody
- Urine that suddenly smells strange
- Feeling tired or shaky
- Fever or chills
- Pain in the lower back
Treatment depends on the cause, which in most cases is bacteria. UTIs caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics. Viruses or fungi can also cause UTIs, and in such cases, antivirals and antifungals are used. UTIs are easily treatable with medication but if left alone, it could lead to a more serious infection that can damage your kidneys and even send you to the hospital.
The below steps can help reduce your risk of UTIs:
Drink loads of liquids: Water is the best to help dilute your urine and makes you pee more, flushing the bacteria from your urinary tract before an infection can begin. We’ve all heard the advice: “You’ve got a UTI? Just drink cranberry juice”. Although there isn't much scientific evidence to support that cranberry juice prevents UTIs, there also isn’t evidence to support that drinking it is harmful, provided you don’t guzzle a gallon of it at once. If you like cranberry juice, no harm in drinking it. Opt for one that doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it.
Pee after sex. To help flush out any bacteria transferred during sex.
Don’t use artificially-scented products down there: That includes sprays, washes, or bath products - the harsh chemicals will only irritate your urethra. When choosing products for down there, always opt for ones that use natural ingredients.
Don’t douche. Douching is harmful as it has been known to upset your delicate pH balance and cause infections.
Wash your sex toys after each use. It can be easy for bacteria to get on your toys which are in close proximity to your urethra. Opt for one made of a non-porous material and cleanse your toys after each use with mild soap and warm water.
Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. You don’t want to trap moisture as that is the ideal condition for bacteria growth.
Take a probiotic: Probiotics can help restore the bacterial flora or good bacteria. You can get them either naturally from foods like yogurt and kimchi or by way of supplements and vaginal suppositories.
Everyone is different. Some people are unfortunately just more prone to UTIs and other people are lucky and don’t ever get UTIs. Generally, if you're getting one or two UTIs every year, that's not normally a cause for concern but if you keep getting recurring UTIs, that might suggest there’s something else going on. In that case, talk to your doctor who can rule out any underlying issues.
Stay safe. Stay strong. Muff love ❤️