Urinary Tract Infections"I am a clean person! Why do I keep getting urinary tract infections?"
Women have a short urethra (the tube which drains the urine from the bladder) which means that any bacteria which are going to get into the bladder have only a short distance to travel. The vaginal and peri-anal area is 'colonized' with e.coli and other bacteria no matter how many times you shower. Since this area has some bacteria in it they are likely to ascend to the bladder on occasion. "What does 'colonized' mean? Does this mean that I have germs in my vagina all the time?"
Colonization simply means that bacteria are present. We are all coated with low levels of bacteria all over our bodies. The skin and mucous membranes serve as an excellent barrier against infection but occasionally these bacteria find a way into the bladder and are able to cause an infection. "I have a urinary tract infection and I just had sex with my boyfriend. Did I get it from him or can I give this to him?"
Vaginal penetration is one way to acquire a urinary tract infection. The penis will change the shape of the urethral opening slightly with penetration and with it may introduce some of the bacteria which happens to be in the area and give them a little way into the urethra and allow easier access to the bladder. You cannot give your urinary tract infection to your partner. "I get urinary tract infections practically every time I have sex. How can I prevent this? Is something wrong with me?"
'Post coital' urinary tract infections are common because the penetration introduces bacteria into the urethra and makes some women more open to infection. If this appears to be your particular pattern, visit your health care provider and ask them to consider an antibiotic for you to take after intercourse to help lower the transmission rate. "I heard that if I take too many baths, this might give me urinary tract infections."
Soaking in the tub (especially a bubble bath) will give some women more frequent urinary complaints. While it seems like the best possible place to get clean and limit any bacteria, the soaking makes the urethra (bladder opening) more susceptible to infection. "I accidentally wiped from back to front! Is anything bad going to happen to me?"
It is not likely that you will get a urinary tract infection but it is possible. Just keep an eye out for symptoms. "I don't have any burning when I pee but I have some pain in my lower middle abdomen which is uncomfortable and relieved a bit when I urinate."
Cystitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bladder wall and can mimic a urinary tract infection. The bladder sits just behind the pubic bones in the front of the pelvis and may present with pain even in the absence of infection. "In class I have to hold my urine because it is inconvenient to leave all the time. Is this a reason to get urinary tract infections?"
Holding your urine will cause 'pooling' of urine in the bladder. The bladder is supposed to be emptied when it feels full and if the woman has a busy schedule or just can't break away to get to the bathroom that pool of urine can serve as an area for an infection to take hold in the normally sterile urine environment. By urinating frequently you are not allowing the urine to stand still for too long and so the bacteria which might have caused a urinary tract infection are voided out of the body. "I heard that cranberry juice is good for urinary tract infections but every time I get one I start drinking the juice like crazy and still have to go get antibiotics!"
Cranberry juice has been shown to prevent bacteria from adhering to the cells in some cases. It is most useful as a preventative measure. Once the urinary tract infection takes hold cranberry juice will not help except to flush the system. Drink a glass each day and this may help reduce your frequency of urinary tract infections. "Why do I have to go to the doctor every time I have a urinary tract infection. Can't he just call in a prescription for me?"
Health care practitioners are very careful even about such routine complaints as urinary tract infections. Each occurrence needs to be tested and documented because that provider has only one chance to get information about your infection and to make sure that there is nothing more serious going on. The urinalysis needs to be done and the culture sent. The symptoms of UTI's are not always consistent with an actual infection. Cystitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, urethritis, STDs, herpes and microtrauma can all give symptoms of urinary burning or frequency. "Should I eat yogurt or acidophilus to avoid a yeast infection?"
These products contain elements which help maintain the normal bacterial environment of the vaginal tissues. They help some women and others do not find them effective. "What kind of underwear is best to avoid urinary tract infections?"
Cotton underwear 'breathes' better than nylon or silk underwear. Tight fitting pants also seem to promote urinary tract infections because there is not as much air flow and the tissues are compressed into a smaller area which may prolong exposure of the bladder urethra to the local colonized bacteria.
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