UTI prevention: 10 tips to help avoid urinary tract infections
A urinary tract infection is quite a common condition. However, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous if left untreated. This infection occurs in the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra.
If you have UTI, medications can help treat it in a few days. If you don’t have one, there are basic steps you may take to steer clear of recurring urinary tract infections. Let’s take a deeper look at UTI causes, its symptoms, recommended treatment, and how you can avoid getting them.
What causes urinary tract infections?
Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), a bacteria in the intestinal system that enters the urinary tract, is the usual cause of UTI. If untreated, the bacteria could spread in the body:
- kidneys (which filter the blood to produce urine)
- ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
- the bladder (which stores urine)
- urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside)
When a kidney infection has developed, its function may be compromised, increasing the risk of kidney failure. It can be lethal, especially for people who have existing kidney-related conditions. The usual tell-tale symptoms of a UTI for both men and women are:
- pain or burning when urinating
- frequent need to urinate
- urgent need to urinate
- blood in the urine
- discomfort in the lower abdomen
- pain in the lower abdomen after urinating
Helpful tips to prevent UTIs
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a person’s age, health condition, and habits can increase the likelihood of urinary tract infections. You can take these steps to reduce the risk of UTIs:
- Drink plenty of fluids, at least three to four glasses of water or natural fruit juices daily, to help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
- Practice good personal hygiene. Wash the genital area with water and a gentle soap or wash. Always wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating. For uncircumcised men, it’s important to carefully wash the area under the foreskin as this is a common breeding ground for bacteria.
- Empty your bladder as soon as you feel the urge, or at least every three hours. Holding it in will most likely result in an infection.
- Empty your bladder before and soon after sexual intercourse. Also, wash your private area and drink a glass of water to help replenish lost fluids in the body. Don’t reuse condoms and remove them immediately after sex.
- Get plenty of vitamin C. You can add vitamin C-rich foods to your diet, like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables. These make the urine acidic and help keep bacteria down. According to the National Institutes of Health, women 19 years and above need at least 75mg of Vitamin C daily. Men, on the other hand, need 90 mg of vitamin C each day. Smokers need an additional 35 mg per day.
- Wear comfortable cotton undergarments. Bacteria grow faster in moist places. Cotton is a breathable fabric and doesn’t trap moisture, helping prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products. Using deodorant sprays or other feminine products, such as douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
- Diaphragms and unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms can also contribute to bacterial growth. Using an alternate Hormone Replacement Therapy method is suggested. Consult with an OB-GYN for a safer alternative.
- Postmenopausal women who develop recurrent UTIs may benefit from UTI prevention supplements like vaginal estrogen.
- For those who get recurrent UTIs, the American Urological Association recommends a low-dose daily antibiotic that may help prevent UTIs from coming back.
For prevention tips involving antibiotics, consult your doctor before taking any UTI prevention medication. You should also mention any other medicines you’re taking, if you’re on birth control, and if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive.
Why do I keep getting urinary tract infections?
If you experience UTIs too frequently, you know how frustrating they are. There are many reasons why UTIs keep coming back:
- Some women get recurring urinary tract infections. E. Coli can easily transport from the intestinal system to the urinary tract via the rectum. Females need to wipe from the front to back, not the other way around, to prevent bacteria from spreading.
- Males are more likely to get frequent UTIs with an enlarged prostate. When it’s enlarged, the bladder finds it difficult to empty itself, thus, paving the way for bacteria to grow and spread, causing an infection.
- Sexually active individuals are also more prone to UTIs. Intercourse may increase the number of bacteria in the bladder, allowing infection to occur.
- Using spermicides as a birth control method may also be a risk factor. Since this product kills off the good bacteria Lactobacilli, it makes it easier for E.Coli to enter and thrive in the urinary system.
- Menopause also plays a significant role in the recurrence of a urinary tract infection. With age, the number of Lactobacilli in a woman’s vagina will decrease naturally. Also, bladder control declines in geriatric patients, making urination more difficult.
- Another risk factor is heredity. If you have an immediate family member who gets frequent urinary tract infections, you’re at a higher risk of getting them too.
- A weak immune system can also be a reason for infections to occur more frequently. This medical condition is also a common complication in patients with spinal cord injuries.
If none of these applies to you, consult a healthcare provider for a more thorough check and diagnosis.
When to see a doctor
Life-threatening signs of a kidney or bladder infection are:
- urine that looks murky or cloudy
- urine with a tinge of pink, red, or burgundy color
- urine that has a strong, unusual odor
- pain in the side or upper back area
- shaking or chills
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned here, stop by any urgent care center in New York City. They’ll collect your urine sample, perform an in-house urinalysis or send it to the lab for testing.
Once the results are in, the healthcare provider will determine if you’ll need antibiotics. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure to complete it. If you don’t need treatment, ask for UTI prevention supplements to prevent the infection from recurring.
Last thoughts on recurrent UTIs
People often use the bathroom several times a day without much thought about the comfort urination brings. For those with recurrent UTIs, something as simple as urinating can be difficult and painful. Consider these prevention tips to help minimize or completely stop UTIs from recurring. If you have questions about treatment and prevention, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider.