How to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI), one of the most common infections in the United States, causes over 8 million people to seek care from their healthcare providers each year. Statistics say that around 60% of women and 12% of men will experience a UTI at least once in their life. 

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when harmful bacteria (usually E.coli) enter the urine and travel into the urinary system, causing an infection. Most infections affect the lower urinary tract, the bladder, and the urethra. 

UTIs are treatable and usually not serious. However, left untreated or not caught in time, it can cause severe complications, including a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and sepsis

Symptoms of a UTI

People with UTIs usually experience:

  • Flank (side), abdomen, pelvic, or lower back pain

  • Pressure in the lower pelvis

  • Frequent, urgent need to urinate

  • Incontinence 

  • Dysuria (pain, burning feeling when urinating)

  • Blood in the urine

  • The need to urinate at night.

  • Cloudy looking urine 

  • Strong smelling urine

Other UTI symptoms may include:

  • Pain during sex

  • Penis pain

  • Fatigue

  • Fever and chills

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion, hallucinations, aggression, or other mental changes 

Causes of a UTI

Women have a far greater chance than men of getting a UTI because their urethra is shorter, allowing bacteria to get into the bladder easier. 

Other risk factors that can lead to a UTI include:

How to treat a UTI

If you show signs of a UTI, your doctor will get a urine sample to test for UTI-causing bacteria. 

Antibiotics 

The first line of treatment for a UTI is an antibiotic. While there are a few different approved medications available to treat a UTI, your physician will prescribe one based on a few factors; how often you get UTIs, any medication allergies, and other medical conditions. 

 The medications most often prescribed for UTIs are:

Whichever UTI medicine your healthcare provider prescribes, you should get it filled right away and start taking it as soon as possible. Typically, you will begin to feel relief after the first few doses. 

However, it's critical to finish all of the antibiotic medication. If not, you run the risk of the infection returning or the remaining bacteria developing a resistance to the drug. 

Drink lots of water

Increasing your water intake while taking your antibiotic can help get rid of the infection faster.   

Even after your UTI clears up, drinking more water daily is also key to preventing UTIs in the future. That's because water dilutes your urine and flushes out the bacteria in your bladder. 

Cranberry juice/pills

There isn't a lot of research proving that cranberry (juice or pill form) can cure a UTI. However, some studies show that it can help prevent recurring UTIs in women

While there's no harm in drinking cranberry juice if you like it, just be cautious of the calories and sugar in some brands. Opt for unsweetened versions and always consult with your doctor before drinking. Also, be wary of mixing cranberries with some medications, like blood thinners

If you don't like the taste or experience adverse side effects from cranberry, such as diarrhea, you can try an over-the-counter cranberry pill. 

Change your urination habits

Urine is a waste product, so you're removing waste (bacteria included) from your body every time you go to the bathroom.

You can reduce your risk of infection by urinating more frequently, especially with recurrent UTIs. Increasing your fluid intake will help you go more often. Avoid food and drinks that can irritate your bladder, like coffee, soda, citrus fruits, and spicy foods. 

It's also essential to use the bathroom before and after sex to help flush out bacteria that may occur during sex. 

Practice good hygiene 

Good hygiene is essential for preventing UTIs, whether recurring or not, especially in women. 

Because the urethra in women is much shorter, it's easier for infection-causing bacteria to move from the rectum back into the body. Therefore, women should always wipe front to back. It's also important for menstruating women to change tampons and pads frequently during their cycle. 

Final thoughts

While UTIs are common, especially in women, they can be uncomfortable, painful, and frustrating. 

There are ways to prevent them from happening, but home remedies and over-the-counter medication don't always get rid of the bacteria causing the infection. You should consult your doctor to avoid severe complications if your symptoms don't clear up or are reoccurring. 

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