What You Should Know About Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections, commonly referred to as UTI’s, are a recurrent misery for many women. Because they are so common, rumors and myths about their causes and how to treat them are just as plentiful. For those of us who are prone to these painful and annoying infections, it’s important to keep up with the most current research – and be aware of exactly what the facts are.

How Do I Know If I Have a UTI?

Most women who have had a urinary tract infection will tell you, if you have one, you’ll know. While specific symptoms vary, you are likely to experience one or more of the following:

  • An overwhelming urge to urinate – even after you’ve just gone
  • Frequently passing only a small amount of urine
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Pain or burning in the urethra even when you don’t urinate
  • Urine that is cloudy, red, bright pink, or brown
  • Urine that has a strong smell
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Discomfort in the lower abdomen
  • Discharge from the urethra

What Causes a UTI?

A urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria which enter the urethra and may make their way up into the bladder, where they multiply. The actual infection can located be in the bladder (cystitis) or urethra (urethritis) or both. In severe cases, the infection can even spread to the kidneys, with potentially serious consequences.

Most UTI’s are caused by bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract, particularly Escherichia coli (E. coli), but other bacteria may be to blame. Sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mycoplasma can also cause a urinary tract infection.

Is Sex Always To Blame?

Long known as the “honeymoon disease,” UTI’s are most commonly attributed to sexual activity. The truth, however, is that sex may have nothing to do with your UTI – and women who are not or have never been sexually active may also suffer from a urinary tract infection. The real culprit is simple female anatomy: both the anus and the vagina are located precariously close to the urethral opening, making it easy for cross-contamination to occur.

Does Cranberry Juice Protect You?

For years, doctors and manufacturers of cranberry juice and cranberry juice supplements have been claiming that drinking cranberry juice – or ingesting cranberry juice extract – could prevent or even cure urinary tract infections. The truth is actually far less clear. While some studies seem to point to the efficacy of drinking cranberry juice in reducing the number of UTI’s by up to a third, other studies have provided conflicting results. In fact, a recent study in 2016 showed absolutely no benefit to taking high-potency cranberry extract capsules to prevent urinary tract infections.

Luckily, it’s easy to test for and diagnose urinary tract infections. Usually, a simple urine test will provide immediate results. Your doctor may also choose to do a culture in order to make sure that the proper bacteria is identified so that the right antibiotic is prescribed. While there are now simple, at-home test kits available for use, most doctors will want you to come in for an appointment so they can run the tests to make sure they have an accurate diagnosis – so they can prescribe the most effective cure.