Urinary tract infections (UTIs), can be physically uncomfortable, emotionally draining, and difficult to prevent or catch early. So, we sat down with Dr. Adrienne Heckler, MD, a urologist at the Vancouver Clinic in Washington, to ask all our most pressing questions about UTIs.
I am never sure if I have a UTI until it’s too late and I’m in severe pain. How can I know for sure next time?
Dr. Heckler: Everyone presents a little differently when it comes to bladder infections. Some have early signs and some just don’t. However, things you can keep your eye out for are triggers that tend to set you off-- intercourse, long road trips, hot weather etc… Common early signs include cloudy urine, urine that smells badly, and the need to urinate more often. Keeping a test kit with you to check from time to time might help you understand your own early signs.
Is there anything I can do to prevent getting a UTI?
Dr. Heckler: First of all, know that it is not your fault. Studies have shown that some people simply have bladder surfaces that attract bacteria more than others. However, there are certainly things you can do to up your defences. First, hydrate hydrate hydrate. Diluting your urine can flush out lots of badness. Next, taking cranberry and D Mannose daily have been shown to make your bladder a less friendly environment for bacteria. Finally, consider avoiding wearing thongs or non breathable fabrics, avoid prolonged moisture, keep appropriate vaginal hygiene, and manage any issues you might have with constipation.
What’s the deal with cranberry juice? Does it really work?
Dr. Heckler: Sure can! The idea is that Cranberry juice (without sugar) or cranberry pills have properties that can bind certain bacteria and keep them from attaching to your bladder wall.
Every time I get on antibiotics for a UTI, I get a yeast infection after… Is this normal?
Dr. Heckler: Definitely. Antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria. We all have a natural flora that exists in our vaginas, when we wipe that out with antibiotics, things that irritate us-- particularly yeast can start to take over. Always take probiotics while taking antibiotics.
Why do I keep getting UTIs? I always pee after sex and drink a lot of water!
Dr. Heckler: Some people are simply at a higher risk for getting infections. A common trigger is intercourse. The friction can cause either focal inflammation or a transient exposure to bacteria. Urinating after sex can help to clear this out, and hydration helps to dilute away any demons. Consider taking a D mannose before and after intercourse as well. If this still doesn’t work, speak with your doctor about patient directed antibiotic therapy.
How do I know if it’s an STI or a UTI? What are UTI symptoms?
Dr. Heckler: STI’s tend to be more vaginal in nature and often will be accompanied by a discharge or vaginal odor. Bladder infection symptoms often are focused on the area above the pubic bone or the urethra. If you have any risk for exposure to an STI, I recommend being evaluated.
What happens if I don’t treat my UTI with antibiotics right away?
Dr. Heckler: Good question. 50-70% of bladder infections can be cleared with hydration, ibuprofen and D mannose. It is always reasonable to try this first. If your symptoms persist for longer than 5 days after starting this treatment, or you present with blood in your urine, back pain and fevers you should seek medical care. Bladder infections, other than being a pain, are not necessarily bad for you. Some can progress to a kidney infection (fevers) and this certainly necessitates further assessment.
Have any other questions about UTIs? Share them in the comments!