If you’ve ever dealt with a urinary tract infection, you know it’s an unpleasant experience. But it’s also an incredibly common one—according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of women will experience a UTI at some point in her lifetime.1
So how can you get relief from a UTI as quickly as possible, and what steps can you take to prevent it from happening again? Here are the answers to all your (dare we say it?) burning questions about what to do if you have a UTI.
Read on for more.
What Causes a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria entering the urethra. The most common culprit is E. coli, a type of bacteria that lives in the gut and helps with digestion.E. coli leaves the body via stool—and thanks to the close proximity, it can travel to your urethra and cause an infection. This can happen in a few ways, including sexual activity and improper wiping technique.2
Pregnancy may make you more susceptible to UTIs because hormonal changes can affect the healthy bacteria that live in your body and help fight off infections. In fact, anything that impacts the balance of bacteria in your body may increase your risk of getting a UTI. That’s why certain types of birth control—such as diaphragms with spermicidal agents—are also associated with an increased UTI risk.3
UTIs can affect any part of the urinary tract, but they most commonly affect the bladder or urethra. Left untreated, however, a UTI may spread to the kidneys and lead to serious medical issues.
What Are the Most Common UTI Symptoms?
Urinary tract infections cause the lining of the bladder and urethra to become irritated, which can lead to some uncomfortable symptoms.
The most common UTI symptoms include:4
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Frequent urination, or feeling the urge to pee even when your bladder is empty
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- Pain in the abdomen, lower back, or pelvic area
When a UTI affects the kidneys, you may experience additional symptoms:
- Upper back pain (usually on one side)
- Nausea or vomiting
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a kidney infection, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible. Kidney infections may spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening.
Pain when urinating is also a common symptom of a yeast infection, a type of infection caused by the overgrowth of a certain type of fungus. So how can you tell which type of infection you’re dealing with? Keep an eye out for common yeast infection symptoms include itching, redness, and abnormal discharge.5
Will Antibiotics Help with a UTI?
Because UTIs are caused by bacteria, antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat them. Your healthcare provider may test your urine to determine which type of bacteria is wreaking havoc and which antibiotic will be the most effective. Severe infections may require treatment in a hospital with IV antibiotics.6
If you experience recurrent UTIs—typically defined as two or more in a six-month period—your doctor can help assess your risk factors and discuss preventative measures.
Recurrent UTIs are two or more UTIs in a six-month period.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you suspect you might have a UTI, you may be wondering if you should call your doctor or just wait and see if it goes away on its own.
Short answer: If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, your best bet is to nab an appointment with a healthcare provider or urgent care center ASAP.
It’s true that certain types of UTIs may eventually resolve on their own, and some home remedies can help to relieve your symptoms. However, early diagnosis and treatment will help you get relief as quickly as possible, and can also lessen your risk of developing a more serious infection.7
What Are the Best Treatments for a UTI?
If you’re dealing with a UTI, these are your best lines of defense.
First and foremost, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria causing the infection. Be sure to take antibiotics exactly as prescribed to ensure the infection is completely gone and to help prevent a recurrence.
Drinking plenty of water can help to flush bacteria from your urinary tract. You may want to avoid alcohol, coffee and carbonated beverages, which can further irritate your bladder.8
Many people swear by cranberry juice as a home remedy for getting rid of a UTI, but there’s limited data to support this. However, it may show some promise when it comes to preventing UTIs.
- Pain Relief
While you’re waiting for the antibiotics to do their thing, a heating pad or over-the-counter pain reliever can help manage symptoms like back pain and pelvic pain.
How Can I Prevent UTIs in the Future?
While there’s no foolproof way to prevent a UTI, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your risk.
“For urinary tract health, prevention is key. As we age, protecting our skin, the urogenital tissue, and a healthy GI biome are understated goals. Supplements can be helpful in prevention and avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use, which is important.”
— Dr. Banafsheh Bayati, MD, OB/GYN, FACOG
Medical co-Founder, Perelel
- Maintain a healthy microbial balance.
Research suggests probiotics may help to lower your risk of getting a UTI by supporting a healthy balance of bacteria in your body.9 Consider adding a supplement like Daily Probiotic to your wellness routine.
- Practice healthy hygiene.
These habits may help to minimize your risk of getting an UTI:10
- Opt for breathable fabrics and avoid tight-fitting pants, which can trap moisture.
- Change out of wet swimsuits or damp workout clothes quickly.
- Choose showers rather than baths.
- Always wipe from front to back.
- Avoid products that contain irritants, like feminine sprays or douches.
- Drink cranberry juice.
Many people swear by cranberry juice to help get rid of a UTI faster, but the jury’s still out on whether that’s actually effective. However, the best time to sip this tart beverage may be before you get a UTI in the first place—research suggests cranberry juice shows some promise for preventing UTIs.11
- Boost your immune system.
Ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to support a healthy immune system and stave off infection. A daily full-spectrum multivitamin can help you fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet. Plus, adding supplements to support your urinary tract health to your daily lineup can go a long way in supporting your microbiome and overall health and wellbeing.
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Shop OB/GYN-made vitamins to support your reproductive health now. Read next—a naturopathic doctor breaks down each phase of your menstrual cycle and how that affects your hormones.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.