Thanks to the unique way their bodies are designed, women are an astonishing 30 times more likely to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men, although men certainly are not immune to them. Women have a shorter urethra (the passage that expels urine from the body) than men. This makes it much easier for bacteria to travel through it and multiply in the bladder, leading to an infection.
So what can you do to safeguard yourself? Prevention is always better than a cure, but if you’re currently suffering from a UTI, read on to learn how you can overcome the painful symptoms of this irritating infection.
The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, bladder, ureters (tubes connecting the two) and urethra. Any one of these parts getting infected with bacteria can lead to a UTI. As painful as they can be, bladder infections (cystitis) aren’t something to be worried about. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys, leading to a more serious infection. This makes early treatment of a lbladder infection all the more important.
The most common bacteria causing a UTI is called E.Coli, which usually lives in the bowel. In its natural territory, this microbe plays an important role in digesting food and absorbing nutrients; it is only when it starts to stray to places it doesn’t belong that it can become a real problem.
Impaired urinary flow, which can be the result of prior surgical procedures or underlying medical conditions can lead to frequent or recurrent UTIs as the bladder is not able to completely empty itself. In this case, urine accumulates and stagnates, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
For some women, UTIs may become a chronic problem when bacteria from a previous infection are still lurking about in the bladder, waiting for the opportune moment to strike again. Normally, a UTI can be easily cured with the appropriate antibiotics and at-home treatments.
We’ve already mentioned how purely being a woman can predispose you to UTIs, but the following factors can further increase the likelihood of developing one:
You can’t fight an infection if you don’t know it's there.
There are several symptoms which may accompany a UTI. Symptoms can vary by age and gender. The most common include:
If you suspect, but are still not so if you have a UTI, it’s a good idea to make a quick trip to your doctor. Your doctor can confirm your diagnosis by running a quick urine test.
Don’t despair – there are many ways you can conquer your painful UTI symptoms and help banish the bacteria from your bladder.
Not only does water flush the body of harmful toxins and bacteria, but it also keeps your urine diluted, making the process of peeing a lot less painful. Just don’t put off a trip to the toilet anytime you get the urge to pee.
On the flip side, any drink that contains caffeine – like tea, coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol – can be irritating to the bladder, and can make it feel like your peeing fire.
Choosing a healthier diet can do wonders in warding off an unwarranted infection. Eating wholesome foods that consist of colorful fruit and vegetables, high fiber, protein, and healthy fats can give your body a much-needed antioxidant boost. Some studies have shown a benefit in taking probiotic, which are essentially ‘good’ bacteria which can hlep prevent UTIs. Eating more cranberries or blueberries may deter UTIs that keep coming back.
If you suffer from UTIs, you’ll know all too well how antibiotics are a double-edged sword. While these pills can kill any harmful bacteria in your system, they can also cause a whole lot of damage to the beneficial microbes living inside you, making it easy for the infection to return. Therefore, it is vital that you always take antibiotics as instructed by your doctor, and never for longer than you need to. It may also help to take a course of probiotics alongside your treatment to keep the good bacteria thriving.
Although with proper treatment a UTI can clear up in a matter of days, it can feel like forever with the pain. Thankfully, there are some over-the-counter medications you can take to relieve pain and discomfort. Speak to your pharmacist about the range of pain relief they can offer and how to choose the best one for you.
The abdominal aches and pains that come with a UTI may not be paralyzing, but they can certainly put a downer on your day. Try using a heating pad or hot water bottle to stave off such symptoms and relieve pressure on the bladder.
Few things can be more irritating than tight clothing that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe. To make matters worse, it can trap moisture, thereby creating a breeding ground for bacteria. It is therefore, important to wear cotton underwear and loose clothing to keep the area around the urethra dry and germ-free.
Vaginal bacteria can trigger a UTI. Using obtrusive items like spermicide, a diaphragm, sex toys, and even tampons can affect pH balance of the vagina, making it vulnerable to harmful bacteria. If you’re prone to UTIs, you may want to switch to non-invasive birth control and sanitary products. It’s also worth mentioning that douching and using scented items in the vagina should be avoided. Warm water will do just fine in keeping it clean.
During sex, it is easy for bacteria to get pushed into the urethra. The last thing you want to feel after your most intimate moments is the fury of a UTI. It is therfore crucial to pee both before and shortly after sex to help flush bacteria out of your system.
If you’re a woman, your urethra and anus are living in pretty close quarters. Following proper hygiene practice, and wiping from front to back, especially after a bowel movement, keeps E. Coli as far away from the urethra as possible.
It is essential to always practice good hygiene – especially during your period, when your propensity for getting an infection increases . Change pads or tampons regularly and keep the area clean and dry.
While there’s nothing better than soaking in a bathtub after a stressful day, showers are the better option if you’re struggling to get rid of a stubborn UTI. Taking a bath is pretty much like sending an open invitation to harsh chemicals and bacteria which can invade your urethra and beyond.
The bottom line is that nothing will guarantee you total safety from a UTI. Still, by putting in place the above measures, you can have the upper hand in the battle against harmful bacteria and the symptoms caused by a UTI.