UTIs: 9 Things You Should Know

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Ever felt a painful burning sensation when you needed to pee? You’re not alone. Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are shockingly common. Yet, most people who suffer from them don’t know why they happen — or what to do about them.

Get the Facts About UTIs

Not all cases of UTI, especially recurrent ones, are easy to solve. Severe UTIs can be life-threatening. But there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk — and get appropriate relief when infection strikes.

Here, Henry Ford urogynecologist and pelvic reconstructive surgeon Maria Victoria Estanol, M.D. highlights what you should know about this pesky urinary tract condition:

  1. A UTI can infect multiple locations. UTIs can occur anywhere along the urinary tract. So, you can get an infection in your urethra (called urethritis), in your bladder (cystitis) or in your kidney (pyelonephritis). The most common site of infection for UTIs is the bladder.
  2. Women get more UTIs than men. In fact, UTIs occur eight times more often in women than men, with half of all women getting a UTI during their lifetimes. Why the disparity? Basic biology. Women’s urethras are shorter and closer to their rectums than men’s. Wiping from front to back (instead of from back to front) after using the bathroom can help prevent bacteria from hitching a ride from your rectum to your urethra.
  3. Having sex boosts your risk. Sexual activity, whether it involves penetration or not, can spread bacteria to places it doesn’t belong. In fact, some women routinely get infections after sex. So, it’s important to always wash your hands with soap and water and be careful to avoid anal and vaginal activities simultaneously. Using a diaphragm can be problematic, too, since it pushes against the urethra, making it tough to completely empty your bladder.
  4. UTIs can be serious. Most cases of UTI are mild, only affect the bladder and are easily resolved with a simple course of antibiotics. However, if a UTI is left untreated, bacteria-laden urine can travel to the kidneys and cause serious, even life-threatening complications.
  5. Douches don’t help. Douches, sprays and other feminine products promise to make your nether regions smell pretty, but they can also devastate your vagina’s healthy bacteria. That gives bad bacteria a chance to flourish and travel into the urethra. A better option: Clean intimate areas with mild soap and water, blot dry (don’t rub) after urinating and change your underwear at least once a day.
  6. Cranberry juice should be left on the shelf. While cranberry juice can help prevent bacteria from taking hold in the urinary tract, it’s often loaded with sugar, which can actually feed bacteria. A better bet: Pop a daily cranberry tablet. There’s a substance in cranberry that makes bacteria less sticky. It won’t cure an existing infection, but it can help prevent a new one from settling in.
  7. Water offers a reasonable defense. Peeing frequently flushes out bacteria. Drink water throughout the day – one to two liters daily – and make sure to visit the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to pee. Delaying urination gives bacteria time to grow and thrive.
  8. There’s not always a simple fix. A lot of people think UTIs can be treated quickly with antibiotics. While that’s sometimes the case, recurrent infections are also common. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you think you might have a UTI.
  9. You can preempt infection. If you’re especially infection-prone, don’t suffer in silence. Your doctor may prescribe a low-dose antibiotic to take after sex or suggest vaginal estrogen (if you’re postmenopausal) to prevent infection from taking hold.

If you’re menopausal, you regularly use a catheter, or you have a consistently elevated pH level, you may be at increased risk of developing recurrent UTIs. “No matter what the cause, if you’re suffering from recurrent UTIs — meaning you get two or more infections in six months or three or more infections in one year — see a doctor,” says Dr. Estanol.


To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). You can also read more wellness advice in our FeelWell section, so subscribe to get all the latest tips.

Dr. Maria Victoria Estonal specializes in urogynecology, which means she has special training in urology and gynecology and her practice focuses on the evaluation and treatment of non-cancerous conditions concerning the female pelvic organs and their supporting muscles and tissues, as well as pelvic reconstructive surgery. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Dearborn and Troy.

Categories: FeelWell

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