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Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) lead to more than 8 million trips to health care providers a year. Women get the short end of the stick when it comes to UTIs and are at a much higher risk of developing a UTI than men. While UTIs are simple to treat when caught early, they can become very dangerous if the symptoms are ignored and the infection travels to the kidneys. Let’s talk about what you should be looking for and how to avoid UTIs in the first place.
A UTI usually begins in the lower urinary tract – your urethra or your bladder. A UTI starts when bacteria gets trapped in the urethra (the tube that urine exits the body through after it leaves your bladder). This bacteria can come from general irritation, sexual intercourse, improper hygiene and even exercise. Women have a relatively short urethra causing bacteria to quickly travel to the bladder. Once the infection reaches the bladder the bacteria can then reach your kidneys and cause some serious health issues. If you have any of the symptoms of a UTI, please seek medical assistance immediately to avoid a kidney infection.
Early symptoms may include the following:
Advanced symptoms include:
Diagnosis of a UTI is relatively simple. A urine sample is collected by your physician and tested for bacteria. If bacteria is present, typically a dose of oral antibiotics will help clear up the infection quickly.
While sometimes UTIs are unavoidable and just part of life, there are ways you can help prevent an infection before it starts.
Drink plenty of fluids – The more water you drink the more your system will naturally flush itself. The fluid helps to dilute the urine and clear any bacteria from your urinary tract before an infection can start.
Use proper sanitation methods in the restroom – Remember when Mom told you to wipe from the front to the back? Mom always knows best. Reason being that it helps to keep bacteria away from your urethra.
Avoid feminine sprays, scented douches, and bath products - Harsh ingredients can cause irritation which will lead to bacterial growth.
Use the restroom just after sex – This helps to flush out any bacteria that your urethra may have come in contact with.
Wear cotton undergarments and breathable clothing – Avoid tight jeans and nylon underwear that might trap moisture against your body. This can create an environment that would encourage the growth of bacteria.
If you experience chronic symptoms of a UTI, talk to your health care provider to discuss other options. Some women are more prone to UTIs than others. Keeping an open conversation with your doctor about your bladder health is always good practice.
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