Oh, those pesky bladder infections. Women who have never had a lower urinary tract infection (UTI) should count themselves lucky. In most healthy women, UTIs are dangerous only if they are left untreated. But the symptoms can make you downright miserable.
Symptoms of UTIs
Symptoms of a lower urinary infection, also called cystitis, may include:
- pain or burning during urination
- frequent urination
- strong urges to urinate, even immediately after urinating
- discomfort or a feeling of pressure in the bladder area
- pain in the pelvic area or back
- abnormal urine odor or color
- blood in the urine
Sometimes a urinary infection may cause fever, chills and nausea, as well as painful intercourse. UTIs can also occur in men, but they are much less common. Many women suffer frequent or recurrent infections.
Nearly all bladder infections in women are caused by bacteria that move up through the urethra to the bladder and begin to multiply. Under normal conditions, the urethra, the bladder and the urine itself are sterile and free of bacteria. Preventive measures for UTIs are aimed at keeping the bacteria from getting into the urethra, and at flushing them out if they do.
Try These Preventive Measures
- Wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating.
- Don’t “hold it.” Always empty your bladder when you feel the urge.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Some women who have recurrent UTIs find that drinking cranberry juice has a preventive effect and some studies are now starting to confirm this. Cranberry juice also seems to help clear up UTIs.
- Drink a glass of water before having sex. Urinate before and after.
- If you have a diaphragm for birth control, clean it after each use. For women with recurrent UTIs, some experts advise avoiding diaphragm or other methods that require spermicides. But this may not be practical or possible for many women.
- If you have frequent UTIs, don’t take bubble baths.
- Avoid using cosmetics in the genital area (the so-called feminine hygiene products).
- Wear cotton underwear, or at least cotton-crotch underwear.
- Avoid wearing overly tight pants or underwear.
If, after all this, you develop symptoms of a bladder infection, see your doctor. Most lower UTIs can be cleared up with self-care methods and a short course of antibiotics.