Preventing and Treating Recurrent UTIs

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Many people, women especially, will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI), at some point in their lives. UTIs can affect any part of the urinary tract. Infections are easily resolved when caught early enough and treated with antibiotics. Infections that are not treated early can spread to the kidneys and may require hospitalization. Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Blood or dark colored urine 
  • Bladder pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or a burning sensation while urinating 

If you experience these symptoms along with nausea, vomiting, or a fever – make an appointment to see your doctor or visit an urgent care center, as it may indicate the infection has spread to your kidneys.

While getting a UTI is common, some people get them frequently, multiple times a year – known as recurrent or chronic UTIs.

What Causes Recurrent UTIs?

Why some people get multiple UTIs and others don't is unknown. Women are more likely to get UTIs because their urethras are shorter, making it easier for bacteria to make its way into the bladder. Women's urethras are closer to the anus, compared to men – making fecal bacteria more likely to make its way into the urethra. Men are less likely to get UTIs; however, once they get a UTI they are more likely to get a second one, as the bacteria can hide deep within the tissue of the prostate. People who have trouble urinating as well as diabetes may also be more likely to get repeat infections.

Treating Chronic Urinary Tract Infections

If you experience frequent, recurrent UTI's (three or more times a year), you and your doctor can discuss possible treatment options such as:

  • Long-term, daily use of a low-dose antibiotic such as SMZ-TMP or nitrofurantoin
  • Taking a single, prescribed antibiotic dose after sexual intercourse
  • Taking prescribed antibiotics for one or two days as soon you notice any symptoms of UTI

If you have recurrent UTIs and bladder infections, you may be interested in purchasing an at-home test for UTI, which is available over-the-counter without a prescription. The presence of bacteria (which signals an infection) changes normal nitrates in your urine to nitrite. If nitrite is present, the dipstick will change color after you urinate on it. The test, which works best when you use it during your first bathroom trip of the morning, is about 90 percent reliable.

Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

If you get frequent urinary tract infections, the following tips may help you minimize the number of infections you get: 

  • Drink plenty of water every day
  • Take showers rather than baths
  • Clean the vaginal area before and after sexual intercourse
  • Avoid using diaphragms and spermicides as contraceptives (condoms may also increase the likelihood of a UTI in people who are susceptible to them)
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Wipe from front to back after bowel movements to help prevent bacteria from the anus from entering the vagina or urethra
  • Avoid the use of feminine hygiene sprays, powders, and douches

If you have multiple urinary tract infections per year, talk to your doctor about taking preventative measures.

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Article Sources

  • Urinary Tract Infections In Adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC.)