Your TIGER Sex Column: Everything You Need To Know About UTIs

There’s no doubt about it: Having a UTI (urinary tract infection) sucks. It’s uncomfortable, painful, exhausting and just overall brings you down. However, understanding the science behind a UTI can help with prevention and treatment techniques.

A urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary system, which functions in your body to make urine and transport it out of the body through the bladder and kidney. A UTI is primarily a bladder infection that is caused by bacteria and other microbes. Although it is not serious if you treat it right now, a bladder infection can potentially spread to the kidneys and cause more serious and permanent damage.

For those that have experienced it first hand, the feeling is hard to forget. According to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a UTI can present the following symptoms: pain or burning when you urinate, fever, tiredness or shakiness, an urge to urinate often, pressure in your lower belly, urine that really smells or looks cloudy or reddish, and pain in your back or side below ribs.

The good news is that today, UTIs are extremely treatable, and the antibiotics necessary are readily accessible with a trip to the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, many of us have busy schedules, and it takes a couple of days before we can see a doctor. However, there are home remedies and steps that you can take in order to help you relieve your discomfort and pain.

Drinking plenty of water helps dilute urine and flush out bad bacteria. Warm heating pads have also been known to minimize bladder pressure and discomfort. Probiotics have also been touted as helping fight frequent urinary tract infections by dousing the digestive system with healthy bacteria cultures. Other sources claim baking soda with water can help neutralize acidic urine and ease pain. In addition, Vitamin C is asserted to acidify urine to stop bacterial growth.

According to WebMD, research indicates that cranberry juice contains substances that prevent infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls. Studies have shown it has the greatest effect on women who have frequent UTIs. Most drugstores, such as Target and Walgreens, also sell cranberry pills and tablets that can be taken instead of drinking the juice.

If none of these ideas appeal to you, there are also over-the-counter drugs, such as Azo and Uristat, which help reduce the symptoms, but they will not cure the infection. Overall, the best solution to curing a UTI once and for all is a visit to the doctor. A doctor will be able to accurately diagnose what is causing the problem and provide the appropriate treatment. If you experience the symptoms of a UTI, it is best to get it checked out as soon as possible. Waiting too long could cause the infection to spread infection to the kidney, where it will cause serious problems that simple antibiotics will not be able to treat.

Now, let’s talk prevention. UTIs are most prevalent in women—probably since women have shorter urethras and the opening lies closer to the rectum and vagina where bacteria are more likely to be. UTIs are the second most common reason why people visit their doctors each year: eight million women get a UTI annually (one in five women will in their lifetime) and 20 percent of these women will get a second one. Although UTIs are not as common in men, they are more serious, and men are more likely to be hospitalized for the infection.
A common way that bacteria get into the urethra is through sexual intercourse. During sex, bacteria may get pushed into the urethra and eventually into the bladder where it grows in the urine. This is why sexually active females are more likely to get UTIs. To help prevent UTIs, a glass of water and going to the bathroom after sex can help flush out bacteria. Washing the genital area after sex can also help remove bacteria. For those that use lubrication, a water-soluble lubricant is less likely to irritate and attribute to a UTI. Another way that UTIs are caused is from wiping back to front after using the bathroom. Wiping front to back prevents bacteria from spreading into the urethra.

Generally, drinking lots of water, and going to the bathroom frequently helps prevent UTIs. Holding in your urine is not a good idea, so try to go to the bathroom often and as soon as you feel the urge. Maintaining your hygiene and avoiding potentially irritating products, such as bubble baths, nylon or wet swimsuits and feminine hygiene sprays and douches, are good tips to keep in mind.

The Cowell Wellness Center at University of the Pacific is equipped to handle UTIs. Even if you do not have the school’s insurance and have to pay out of pocket, the urine test and antibiotics used to diagnose and treat a UTI are affordable and inexpensive at around $20 or less. The Cowell Wellness Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments can be made online or by calling (209) 946-2315.

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Nanxi Tang

News Editor at The Pacifican

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