Urinary Tract Infections and How to Prevent Them

October 21, 2015

If you’ve ever had a Urinary Tract Infection (more commonly known as a UTI) you’re well aware of how uncomfortable they can be and are probably willing to do whatever it takes to avoid another one. However, in order to avoid a UTI, you must understand what it is. (Not really, but it’s good to be informed!)

UTIs are infections that occur along the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Typically, we use the term UTI to describe a bladder infection. If the infection has migrated to the kidney it is called pyelonephritis. Some common symptoms of a simple UTI are burning with urination, having the frequent or urgent need to void, abdominal pain, and blood in the urine. Fevers, chills, nausea, and back pain added to the above symptoms indicate a kidney infection and should be promptly addressed. Most UTIs are treated with a simple course of oral antibiotics. There are certain situations and populations in which UTIs are more complicated requiring hospital stay or IV antibiotics.

The best way to avoid UTIs and any complications is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are a few risk factors for UTIs and ways you can lower your risk of getting an infection.

What are some UTI risk factors?

  • Female gender – Due to the female pelvic anatomy, UTIs are much more common in women than men because of the short distance from the urethra to the rectum. E.coli, which normally lives in the colon, can be transferred to the bladder easily this way.
  • Baths/pools/lakes – Submersion in water can set you up for UTIs – especially in the summer when most people stay at the lake or pool for several hours a day in wet bottoms.
  • Urinary incontinence – Incontinence or leakage of urine into a pad or underwear can cause bacteria to easily enter the bladder.
  • Constipation – When the stool sits in the colon and at the rectum it not only has a shorter distance to travel to the urethra, but also causes impaired emptying of the bladder.
  • Other factors – Postmenopausal women, catheterization, sexual intercourse, immunosuppression, and prostate enlargement in men can all contribute to UTIs. 

How do I prevent UTIs?

  • Use the restroom frequently – Don’t hold your urine for long periods of time, void when you have the urge to go (usually this is every 3-4 hours for most people).
  • Stay hydrated – We recommended drinking about 6-8 glasses of water per day.
  • Take daily supplements – Cranberry, D-mannose and probiotics keep your bladder lining healthy and prevent bacteria from “sticking.”
  • Urinate before and after intercourse
  • Wipe wisely – Wipe from front to back following a bowel movement (urethra to rectum).
  • Beware underwear – Avoid very tight fitting or thong underwear.
  • Stay dry – If you use pads or briefs for urinary leakage, be sure to change out immediately if soiled. Decrease pad usage by doing timed voids every 2-3 hours.
  • Eat fiber – Daily fiber to prevents constipation.
  • Avoid vaginal wipes and washes – The vagina should only be cleaned with water and patted dry.
  • Get out of the water – Avoid excessive use of baths, pools, hot tubs, and lakes. It is also good to shower beforehand and change out of wet bottoms.
  • Listen to your doctor – Post-menopausal women that experience may be more prone to UTIs. Local vaginal estrogen helps to keep the vaginal and urethral tissues healthy, and prevent bacteria from entering.