5 key facts on UTIs and urgent care treatment

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI) — the second-most-common type of bacterial infection — you know how uncomfortable it can be. The relentless need to pee and the burning sensation that can accompany this will prompt you to consider the fastest option for relief.

While contacting your doctor might be your first inclination, did you know there are other convenient options? For example, if you’re wondering can I go to an urgent care for a UTI? Yes! You can visit an urgent care center for same-day diagnosis and treatment, saving you time and hassle. Plus, understanding the root cause of infection and knowing how best to prevent it can help you avoid reoccurrences. 

As frustrating as UTIs can be, they are common and treatable.  Let’s discuss five key facts about UTIs to help you better understand what might be happening with your body — including how to identify, prevent, and manage UTIs.

1. Women are 10x more likely to get a UTI than men

When it comes to developing a urinary tract infection, anatomy isn’t in a woman’s favor. Her urethra (the tube urine is released from) is shorter than a man’s, making it easier for bacteria to travel to the bladder and multiply. Still, UTIs do occur among men (especially as they age), but not at the same rate as women.

Statistics from the National Kidney Foundation show that one in five women will have at least one UTI in her lifetime. Unfortunately, once you get one, you’re more inclined to have another. Some women are also more prone to infection because of the unique seasons they go through, like pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.

2. Can sex cause UTIs? Yes, but it’s not the only culprit

The urinary tract is designed to keep harmful bacteria out but it’s not foolproof. Anything that upsets the natural flora of the urinary tract can lead to a urinary tract infection. Sex especially puts a woman at risk for developing a UTI. That’s because, during intercourse, the urethra comes into contact with bacteria from the genital area or anus. Harmful microbes can move into the urinary tract and cause infection. In fact, almost 80% of premenopausal women with an infection have had sex within the previous 24 hours.

Other preexisting conditions, activities, and products can lead to a UTI. Some of the most common factors in developing a UTI include:

  • Hydration status. Drinking enough water, especially during the hot summer months, can make the difference between flushing out bacteria that can cause a UTI or not. 
  • Urination frequency. If you hold your urine for six hours or more, you could be putting yourself at greater risk for bacteria overgrowing in the bladder.
  • Bowel habits. It’s often difficult to empty your bladder when you’re constipated, which means bacteria have time to grow and cause an infection. Conversely, bacteria from diarrhea can also easily make their way into your urethra.
  • Kidney stones. Because they can block your urinary tract and hold urine in, kidney stones give bacteria time to grow and can lead to a UTI.
  • High blood sugar. For some people with uncontrolled diabetes, the bladder doesn’t empty as well as it should and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. In addition, high blood glucose levels can increase the odds of a UTI.
  • Menstrual hygiene. Since bacteria are more prone to grow in moist environments, it’s important to change your pad or tampon frequently when you have your period.
  • Vaginal bacteria balance. Hormone changes from switching your birth control can lead to a fluctuation of the normal bacteria in your vagina, increasing your likelihood of getting a UTI. The use of diaphragms and spermicide as contraceptives can also make you more susceptible to an infection.

Other reasons you’re likely to develop a UTI involve urinary tract abnormalities, a spinal cord injury, nerve damage around the bladder, and having a shorter urethra than normal. 

A urinalysis can examine your urine for the number of healthy red blood cells and healthy white blood cells, as opposed to bacteria counts in your urine. This can help further determine the root cause of recurring UTIs. 

3. Irritation down there doesn’t necessarily mean a UTI

You’re likely to remember the symptoms of a UTI if you’ve experienced one. You have a frequent urge to pee, which often results in a minimal amount of urine. Any urine that is released causes a painful, burning sensation. You might have discolored or foul-smelling urine. 

Some people report feeling pressure in the lower abdomen, back, or sides below the ribs. In the elderly, confusion can be the main symptom of a UTI. However, such discomfort may not indicate a urinary tract infection.

Finally, other conditions may have symptoms similar to a UTI. For example, yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis can cause vaginal itchiness, irregular discharge, or blood in the urine (which is rare for a UTI to cause). At the onset, symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases can also be confused with UTIs. 

That’s why professional medical advice is crucial when you start having symptoms. If you have a UTI but wait too long to receive treatment, it could lead to more serious kidney and lower urinary tract infections.

4. You can visit an urgent care for UTI treatment

Hopefully, you have a trustworthy relationship with your primary care provider or OB/GYN when health changes arise. Even so, demands for medical care can make it difficult to get in to see your doctor in a timely fashion. Plus, annoying symptoms like having a UTI often happen outside of regular doctor’s office hours. 

Instead, we recommend urgent care for UTI treatment. Urgent care centers, like GoHealth Urgent Care, routinely treat UTIs. With extended hours and same-day walk-in appointments, it’s easy to get answers — and relief — from a healthcare professional. 

We’ll perform a urinalysis at a GoHealth Urgent Care center to diagnose a UTI. On-site laboratories allow us to review urine cultures and ensure we prescribe the appropriate urgent-care UTI treatment. 

If you’re wondering whether to go to an urgent care center or the emergency room, consider the differences. Emergency rooms are usually reserved for emergency or life-threatening situations, like strokes, head trauma, or difficulty breathing. 

What makes a UTI urgent care worthy? Whenever you’re in discomfort or need attention. UTIs, while painful, are not life-threatening, especially if caught and treated early. Plus, visiting an urgent care center for UTIs typically costs far less than an emergency room, and could be covered by your health insurance.

5. At-home UTI remedies can help alleviate or prevent pain

Unfortunately, UTIs rarely go away on their own. That’s why antibiotics are recommended as the primary treatment method. However, other at-home UTI remedies don’t require a prescription. Some can be effective in helping to prevent a UTI:

  • Hydrate. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, primarily water. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends drinking six to eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day to flush harmful bacteria out of your urinary tract. Fluids also help to dilute your urine so bacteria don’t build up. 
  • Avoid irritants. Beverages like coffee, alcohol, and carbonated soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners can further irritate your bladder and make it harder for your flora to return to normal.
  • Get enough Vitamin C. Large amounts of Vitamin C make your urine more acidic, which may prevent bacteria from growing. Prioritize eating more vitamin-C-rich foods like oranges, blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, and leafy greens to help curb UTIs.
  • Use heat therapy. Use a warm blanket or heating pad (on the low setting) to help soothe painful urination, topical pain, or irritation in your pubic area. Avoid placing the heat source directly on your skin to not burn yourself.
  • Urinate regularly. Even though going to the bathroom regularly can be inconvenient, every little bit of urine you remove helps. Emptying your bladder gets rid of some of the harmful bacteria that can promote a UTI. If you regularly suffer from UTIs, try to go to the bathroom more frequently.
  • Practice genital hygiene. Simple changes to your daily routine can help you recover from or prevent a UTI. Urinate after sex and wipe from front to back, especially after a bowel movement. Avoid fragranced feminine hygiene products, powders, sprays, or douches, wear loose-fitted underwear, and change out of sweaty workout clothes following exercise. 

If you end up being diagnosed with a UTI, it’s important to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions for using UTI medicine for women. These are typically antibiotics prescribed based on the specific bacteria present. Take the full course of antibiotics as directed to effectively treat the urinary tract infection and prevent recurrence — even if you’re feeling better after the first couple of doses. 

Additional methods for treating and preventing UTIs have also been debated. While recent studies are inconclusive about the benefits of drinking cranberry juice to prevent a UTI, once you get an infection, cranberry juice won’t help. The same goes for probiotics. Fermented products like kefir yogurts and kombucha might cultivate good vaginal flora, but more conclusive evidence is required.

Takeaway Points

The best course of action is to prevent a UTI before it even starts. Make small changes to your daily routine, like drinking enough water and eating foods rich in vitamin C. Evaluate the personal care products you use and the clothes you wear as they affect vaginal bacteria.

Should you feel the irritating symptoms of a UTI coming on, seek treatment from a medical professional — especially if you’re elderly, pregnant, or have any compromising health conditions.

Use urgent care for UTI treatment to a quick urine test and analysis. Then, you can get back to feeling like your normal, healthy self faster and easier.