Summary: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are considered to be the most common bacterial infection, and women are far more likely to get a UTI. 50-60% of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. Adatto community members struggle with UTIs as one of their top health issues. We are here to help break down the basics of what a UTI is, why we get them, and how you can consider tackling yours. All Adatto Medical Articles are science-backed and clearly cited so you can track the underlying medical reports alongside us.
Note: Adatto Market and the information featured here are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
What is a UTI?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) typically occur when bacteria, typically E.coli, enter the urethra. Though E.coli is present in everyone’s gut, it can cause infections if it gets into the urinary tract, which starts at the kidneys, travels to the bladder through the ureters, and ends at the urethra.
Are there different kinds of UTIs, or are they all the same?
It depends which part of the urinary tract is infected. There are 3 different types of UTIs: urethritis (infection of the urethra), cystitis (infection of the bladder), and pyelonephritis (infection of the kidney). Pyelonephritis is the most serious because it indicates the UTI has traveled up the urinary tract to the kidneys, which can be dangerous.
What are typical UTI symptoms?
UTI symptoms and the degree to which they are experienced can vary from woman to woman. Symptoms can worsen the longer a UTI goes untreated or as it moves up the urinary tract. Though the symptoms listed below are common for each of the UTI types mentioned, women can also experience, for example, cystitis-like symptoms despite having urethritis. Be sure to ask your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms to clarify next steps for you!
Urethritis: pain with urinating, difficulty urinating, itching or pain when not urinating, discharge
Cystitis: feeling like you have to urinate constantly, feeling like your bladder isn’t emptying, incontinence (leakage), bladder pressure, abdominal aches and pain, cloudy or darker urine
Pyelonephritis: high fever, nausea, vomiting, delirium, lower back and thigh pain
What should I do if I have a UTI? Do I have to go to the doctor, or can I treat it at home?
You should go to your doctor or pharmacist because antibiotics are the quickest, most effective way to treat a UTI. That being said, there are ways to test your urine ahead of time. Drugstores sell at-home UTI test kits, which mimic the dipstick tests at the doctor’s office. However, home test kits are not 100% accurate, so if the test result is negative and you are still experiencing symptoms, make a doctor’s appointment or head to an urgent care facility for more accurate testing.
Doctors will often run two different tests of your urine: 1) a quick dipstick test that gives instant results of whether an infection is present or not and 2) a urine culture that takes several days to process in a lab that shows which antibiotics will be effective in treating the infection. Because of the delay in the urine culture results, doctors typically prescribe an antibiotic such as Macrobid or Cipro that has a high likelihood of treating the UTI, given the high levels of anti-resistance in these two common antibiotics. To treat pain, doctors may prescribe Pyridium, pain-relief medication that turns urine bright orange. Pyridium, or phenazopyridine, can also be purchased over-the-counter at a drugstore, though at a lower dosage (95mg compared to a prescription of 200mg).
How long should it take for UTI symptoms to go away?
Symptom relief can vary from woman to woman, but generally, women experience relief within an hour of taking Pyridium or within 1 to 2 days of taking just antibiotics. Some women may experience relief after the first dose of antibiotics – it depends. If you are still experiencing pain 3 or more days after you began your antibiotics, call your doctor to see what they recommend.
How can I prevent future UTIs?
The chance of a repeat UTI within a year is 44%, so taking preventative measures can be helpful to avoid repeat infections. Doctors have recommended taking d-mannose, a supplement that can hinder bacteria adhesion to the urinary tract. Another preventative measure to consider is adding a probiotic like lactobacillus to your daily regimen, to increase the amount of infection-fighting bacteria in your gut and urinary tract. Drinking water and urinating on a consistent basis (i.e. not holding it in) can also be an effective way to prevent bacteria building up in the urinary tract.
Research on whether or not consuming cranberry juice regularly can help prevent future UTIs is prevalent. Several studies concluded that consuming cranberry juice lowered the number of future infections, while one study found that cranberry juice failed to prevent recurrent UTIs. However, cranberry juice will not cure a UTI. Some people find the juice helps reduce their symptoms once a UTI is present, but it will not kill the bacteria in your urinary tract. Others find that cranberry juice, due to its high acidity, can actually inflame the bladder and increase their pain, so proceed with caution when drinking cranberry juice during a UTI.
Btw, why don’t my male friends and family get UTIs?
Men can get UTIs too, but it is far less common for men to experience one because they have longer urethras, meaning bacteria has to travel farther to infect the urinary tract. In men the anus is farther away from the urethra, so it is more difficult for bacteria from the gut to get into the urinary tract.
My mom also gets frequent UTIs. Is the tendency to get a UTI genetic?
Research has shown that family history may play a role in genetic risk for UTIs. In a study of family history and risk of recurrent cystitis and pyelonephritis in women, 42% of women who had experienced a UTI also had a first-degree female relative (i.e. mother, daughter, sister) who experienced one.