Urinary tract infections, often referred to as “UTIs” are very common in women due to the close anatomical relationship of the rectum, vagina and urethra. In fact, approximately 60% of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lifetime. Symptoms of UTI include frequent urination, pain with urination, urinating small amounts and/or blood in the urine. Symptoms of a more severe UTI may include fever, nausea, vomiting and back pain. UTI is the presence of bacteria within the urinary system, most commonly the bladder and the urethra. Because the female urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, is short and within close proximity to the rectum, the bacteria that cause UTI generally come from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Diagnosis of a UTI is based on clinical symptoms, urinalysis and urine culture. Urinalysis may be performed in our office with a clean catch sample of urine. Urine culture is the process of trying to grow bacteria from the urine on a petri dish and then testing the bacterial colonies against different antibiotics. For this reason, it usually takes about 3-5 days for a urine culture result. While there are standard antibiotics that typically treat UTIs very well, a urine culture is beneficial to identify the exact bacteria causing the UTI and the appropriate antibiotic to treat it.
Treatment of a UTI generally consists of antibiotics and intake of a large amount of water to help flush out the urinary system. The duration of therapy varies based on your symptoms and your history of UTI. Drinking cranberry juice may help prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall, but remember to only drink this type of juice in moderation, because large quantities of any acidic juice can irritate the bladder wall. There are also over the counter medications containing phenazopyridine, like “Azo-Standard”, that help relieve urinary tract pain for symptom relief. However, remember that these medications are meant to be used for comfort only; they are not antibiotics and do not actually treat a UTI.
Occasionally, reproductive age women may suffer from recurrent bouts of UTI. Because intercourse can contribute to the contamination of the urinary tract, this is often associated with acts of intercourse. There are a few things that may help if you find yourself in this situation. Both you and your partner should bathe thoroughly before intercourse. Also, it is important to completely empty your bladder after every act of intercourse and drink plenty of water. If this is not helpful, your provider may recommend taking a single, gentle antibiotic pill after every act of intercourse to prevent recurrent UTI.