You have a strong, persistent urge to go to the bathroom. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. There’s a burning sensation when you urinate, even though little comes out when you do. You may be experiencing a urinary tract infection (UTI).
How Does the Urinary Tract Work?
The urinary tract’s purpose is to make and store your urine, a waste product of your body. It’s made in the kidneys and travels down to your bladder through your ureter. Your bladder holds the urine until you use the bathroom. It is emptied through the urethra, a tube that connects the bladder to your skin.
It is normal for bacteria to be found in the urine. Still, every now and then, certain strains of bacteria may get into the urine, travel through the urethra and into the bladder and cause inflammation. Now, imagine having a sore throat. Your throat becomes red and irritated just as the lining of your bladder and urethra does when you have a UTI.
Although our bodies are designed to keep us symptom-free, our defenses sometimes fail. Urinary tract infections typically occur when certain strains of bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and get into the bladder. Once bacteria take hold and cause inflammation, the next thing you know, you’ve got a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
Infection of the bladder (cystitis): This type of UTI is most commonly caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Infection of the urethra (urethritis): This type of UTI is caused when the gastrointestinal tract bacteria is spread from the anus to the urethra.
- Strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning or pain when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Pelvic pain
In general, women tend to experience more UTIs than men.
Women have shorter urethras than men, which shortens the distance the bacteria has to travel.
Sexually active women tend to have more UTIs than those that are not sexually active.
Women who use certain forms of birth control may also be at a higher risk for a UTI.
After menopause, women experience a change in the lining of the vagina and lose protection that estrogen provides. The decline in circulating estrogen may make menopausal women more vulnerable to getting an infection.
Can UTIs be prevented?
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water helps dilute your urine. By going to the restroom more frequently, your body can flush out the bacteria from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
Cranberry juice has many health benefits and has been known to help prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. If the bacteria can’t grow, the infection can’t develop and spread.
When you use the restroom, wiping from front to back helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from traveling to the vagina.
Switching your method of birth control may also be helpful. Diaphragms, unlubricated or spermicide treated condoms can contribute to bacterial growth.
If having intercourse, make sure you empty your bladder soon after. Drinking a full glass of water will also help to flush out any bacteria.
Avoid irritating feminine products such as deodorant sprays or powders.
Symptoms of a UTI usually clear up within a few days of taking antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. The pain and persistence to urinate may go away after a few doses but you should take the course that is recommended. Unless it is fully treated, it may return. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. If the problem persists, talk with your healthcare provider.