Urinary Tract Infections: Treatment

Treatmentfor urinary tract infections: over half of all women will experience at least one UTI in her lifetime. For many of those women, the first occurrance will not be the last

Most women can relate to recent studies indicating that well over half of all women will, at some point and time, experience the pain and discomfort of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). In fact, UTIs are second only to the common cold for infections in women.

Even more discouraging, studies also show that women who have one UTI are likely to have another, or even frequent infections, from that point on.

Women are much more susceptible than men, prinarily because UTIs stem from bacteria traveling up into the urinary tract via the urethra -- a little narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. A woman's urethra is much shorter than that of her male counterpart, so there's less "area" in which the bacteria has to fight in order to enter the female urinary tract.

SYMPTOMS:

How will you know if you have a urinary tract infection? Only a lab test can be sure (although 1st Response has come out with an at-home testing kit found in a number of pharmacies -- and even then, it's recommended that you follow up those test results by seeing a physician, as most UTIs will require antibiotic treatment).

Common symptoms of a UTI may include one or more of the followings:

Burning during urination

Notable increase in frequency of urination, or increased "urge" -- even when there is little output of urine.

Cloudy urine, or urine with a strong odor.

Chills, fever, nausea, or lower back pain -- If these symptoms occur, see your doctor as soon as possible. This could (though not always) indicate a serious kidney infection.

PREVENTING INFECTION:

While there is no one thing you can do to ensure you'll never have one, there are numerous things you can do to decrease your chances of ever getting a UTI.

Everyone has heard the age-old "wive's remedy" of drinking cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, and to decrease the symptoms when you already have one. Only recently did researchers discover that the chemicals found in cranberry juice, and in blueberries, not only cause the urine to become acidic (creating a less appealing host environment to infection-causing bacteria), but they also contain chemicals which prevent UTI-causing bacteria from "sticking" to the walls of the urinary tract.

Yes, your grandma wasn't just relaying to you one of her ancient folk remedies when she said you needed to down that cranberry juice!

Note: Typically, the cranberry juices found in your grocery aisle are full of sugar and are watered down, so you'll have to drink a lot more than their concentrated versions to make a real difference. It's best to buy the concentrated form of the juice, which is unsweetened (usually located with the frozen juices), or by taking Cranberry tablets, which can be found in the vitamin section.

Shower before and/or after sex -- the more bacteria you eliminate around the genital area before and after all that "friction" occurs, the better.

Urinate before and after intercourse. This washes out any bacteria in the urethra that could migrate to the bladder.



Beware of your birth control method: Diaphragms and spermicides have been shown to increase the risk of getting a UTI. The vagina and urethra are comprised of sensitive tissues that can be easily irritated, increasing risk of infection.

If you're experiencing vaginal dryness, use a water-based lubricant during intercourse. When tissues are dry, they are more easily broken, bruised, and irritated, leaving them susceptible to bacteria.

Get out of those clothes! Don't stay in a wet bathing suit or sweaty gym clothes any longer than necessary -- the moisture creates an environment that allows bacteria to run rampant, causing everything from yeast infections to UTIs. Wearing cotton underwear helps, too.

Relieve your bladder on a regular basis. "Holding it" keeps bacteria in the urethra and allows it to migrate into the bladder and multiply.

Don't take bubble baths! The fragrance in bubble bath has been especially noted as causing irritation of the urethra, making it extremely susceptible to bacteria and infection. Shower, if at all possible.

If you have recurrent UTIs, you might want to try switching to a hypoallergenic soap or body wash (Nutrigena makes a number of good ones, as does Summer's Eve).

Wipe from front to back when using the restroom, sweeping bacteria away from the urethra.

Drink 8 glasses of water a day! This dilutes the urine, and helps flush bacteria out of the bladder and urethra.

TREATING AN INFECTION:

If you've been diagnosed with a UTI, either by a physician or a home test kit, there are several measures you can take to fight the infection and its bothersome symptoms, coupled with antibiotics:

Drink up! Getting enough water, and supplementing your intake with cranberry juice will usually produce immediate results in relieving irritation.

Get at least 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C a day -- this, too, increases the acidity of urine.

There are several over-the-counter products designed to relieve UTI symptoms (Azo-Standard or Uristat, for example), and most can be used in accompaniment with the above suggestions, as well as with antibiotic treatments. The downside is that most can be used for a maximum of two days because they contain elements that can be harmful to the kidneys and liver if taken in abundance, or for extended periods of time.

SPECIAL NOTE:

Women suffering from recurrent infections should see their doctors. There are low-dose antibiotics available to treat women especially sensitive to UTIs, that can be taken on a long-term basis to prevent recurrences.

Though rare, frequent UTIs can also indicate diabetes.

Bladder infections in males is a less common occurrance but is often more serious, as it can possibly be linked to prostate problems (especially for men with recurring infections).

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