Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are one of the most common conditions we see in our centers. If untreated, UTIs can cause significant complications. Here are five important things to know about this common, potentially-serious condition.
1. There’s a Subtle Difference between UTIs and Bladder Infections
Technically, a UTI can be an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, including the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys. A bladder infection (also called “cystitis”) is an infection that’s isolated to the bladder. An infection that only involves the kidneys is called pyelonephritis.
But since the bladder is the most common location of urinary tract infections, the terms “UTI” and “bladder infection” are often used interchangeably.
2. UTIs are Much More Common in Women
An estimated 40% of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime, as opposed to only 12% of men.
UTIs are more common in women than in men for two reasons. First, women’s urethras are shorter than men’s, with the female urethra measuring 1.5 - 2 inches, and the male urethra averaging 7-8 inches. Second, the distance from the anus to urethral opening is shorter in women than men. These two anatomical differences explain why women are more than three times more likely to get a bladder infection than their male counterparts.
3. UTIs are Not Contagious
One of the most frequent questions patients ask when we’ve diagnosed them with a UTI is, “Can my partner get it, too?” The quick answer is: No. Here’s why. Urinary tract infections are caused by natural bacteria that lives in the colon, and colonizes the perineum (the skin between the anus and urethra). While UTIs commonly occur after intercourse because the bacteria on the perineum is pushed against the urethra and travels up into the bladder, UTIs are not considered sexually-transmitted infections, and they are not contagious.
4. UTIs Can Cause Serious Complications if Not Treated Appropriately
If you develop symptoms of a UTI, which include frequent urination, burning with urination, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, bladder pressure or blood in the urine, it’s important to have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Because if you do have a UTI, no amount of water you drink or cranberry supplements you take will cure it. An antibiotic is required in all cases. Untreated infections can progress to the kidneys and the bloodstream and, in pregnant women, can cause significant pregnancy complications as well.
5. UTIs Can Often Be Prevented
There are several effective steps women can take to help prevent a UTI.
Drinking at least 1.5 liters of water a day and urinating at least every 4 hours has been shown to decrease UTIs by up to 50%.
Washing the perineum before intercourse, and urinating before and after intercourse, can decrease UTIs as well.
Spermicides and diaphragms increase the risk of UTIs, so choosing another birth control method can help reduce UTIs.
And last but not least, there’s some evidence that shows cranberries may have a role in preventing UTIs, though more studies are needed to determine just how effective cranberries are as a UTI-prevention strategy.
We're Here to Help
At GoHealth, we’re open seven days a week to care for you! If you have symptoms of a UTI, we can run a urinalysis on-site, and get you a result in 60 seconds or less. Click below to save your spot online: