You’re up in the middle of the night, headed to the bathroom — again. It’s the fourth time in an hour, and it hurts more every time. These symptoms could point to a urinary tract infection, which occurs when bacteria infect any part of the urinary tract — the urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys.
Urinary tract infections are incredibly common, affecting between 50 and 60% of women at some point in their life. If you’re experiencing a UTI for the first time — or the fifth — here’s what you should know:
Often, when you get a urinary tract infection, you begin to notice the symptoms very quickly. Painful urination and the urge to go to the bathroom frequently are hallmark signs of an infection. Cloudy or red urine, back pain and fever can also be present.
Women are more likely to get an infection than men, but anyone can get one. Women have a shorter urethra that is close to the vagina and anus, so it is easier for bacteria to get in and grow. Older people of both sexes also have a higher risk, especially if they have a condition that affects their ability to fully empty the bladder. Men with an enlarged prostate, kidney stones or a catheter also have an increased chance of getting an infection.
Even with some telltale signs of a urinary tract infection, your doctor will need a urine sample to confirm an infection. Then, a number of antibiotics can be prescribed to fight the infection. For a strong infection, or one affecting the kidneys, intravenous antibiotics might be necessary.
“A urinary tract infection is not usually serious if it is treated, but there can be complications,” says Jim Geddie, administrator at Temecula Healthcare Center. “Without treatment, a UTI could lead to sepsis and kidney damage.”
Cranberry juice has been touted as a prevention method for urinary tract infections, but the science on it is mixed. The theory behind cranberry juice is that it helps prevent bacteria from sticking. While cranberry juice has not been proven as a definitive way to prevent a urinary tract infection, there’s no harm in trying it. Other tips include keeping the genital area clean, urinating frequently, urinating after sex and drinking enough water.
Even a minor urinary tract infection can be unbearable without treatment. If you think you may have a UTI, get checked out so you can nip it early.