A urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI or bladder infection, is caused by bacteria and can occur in any part of the urinary tract (such as the bladder, ureters, urethra, or kidneys). UTIs are much more common in women; around 40% of women and 12% of men will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. Although having sex can sometimes cause UTIs, they are not transmitted sexually and you do not need to have sex to have a UTI.
What the hell is it?
A UTI is the inflammation of one or more parts of the urinary tract, caused by bacteria. UTIs occur when foreign bacteria enters the urinary tract and although there are many causes of this, some of the most common include unprotected anal sex, pregnancy, and STIs. If left untreated, UTIs can cause kidney infection.
Women are more susceptible to UTIs than men. This is because the urethra is much shorter in women than in men, so it is easier for bacteria to make its way into the bladder. Additionally, a woman’s anus is much closer to her urethra than a man’s is, allowing for easier contamination.
Symptoms of a UTI include frequent and/or sudden urination, pain or a burning sensation while peeing, mucus (or occasionally blood) in the urine, pain during sex, and cramps, pain, or tenderness in the bladder area and lower abdomen. In serious infections which have spread to the kidneys, you may also notice back pain, nausea and vomiting, fever, or chills.
If you believe you may have a UTI, it is important to get tested, testing for UTIs is as simple as giving a urine sample at your doctor’s office or clinic. If it is confirmed that you have a UTI, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for you. This medication will generally need to be taken for one week and is safe for use during pregnancy. If you find that you contact UTIs frequently, your doctor can also offer antibiotics to help prevent recurring infections. While you have a UTI, to avoid further discomfort, you may want to avoid tight-fitting pants, alcohol, coffee, prolonged baths, and sex. Most people also find that drinking cranberry juice (not cocktail!) helps to eliminate UTIs.
As mentioned above, drinking cranberry juice regularly can help to prevent UTIs. Other ways to ward off infection include:
- peeing after sex (to flush out any potential bacteria)
- staying properly hydrated
- using condoms during sexual activity
- trying not to “hold” your pee whenever possible
- always wiping front to back after using the bathroom
- keeping the genital region dry
- avoiding the use of harsh or scented products in the genital region (such as lotions, douches, feminine hygiene sprays/wipes, certain spermicides, et cetera)
- changing your underwear daily
- avoiding extremely tight-fitting clothes
Urinary tract infection fact sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services. Magda Barini-Garcia and Kristene Whitmore, May 2008. Web. 25 August 2014.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2014. Web. 24 August 2014.
Urinary Tract Infections in Adults. Urology Care Foundation. American Urological Association, March 2013. Web. 24 August 2014.