About half of all women get an acute urinary tract infection at some point and some also get recurrent urinary tract infections. Common symptoms are frequent urination, burning when urinating and the need to urinate more often than usual.
Urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria, which enter through the urethra and up to the bladder. In women, the urethra is quite short, only 4-6 cm, which means that the bacteria can quite easily migrate up to the bladder.
Often it is different types of intestinal bacteria that cause the urinary tract infection. The intestinal bacteria are found naturally in the abdomen. Men also suffer from urinary tract infections but not to the same extent as women.
When the urinary tract infection affects the urethra or bladder, the infection is usually called cystitis or just a urinary tract infection. But sometimes the bacteria get even further up, all the way to the kidneys and the renal pelvis. Then an infection called renal pelvic inflammatory disease occurs.
What causes urinary tract infections?
Bathing in cold water or cooling down is not considered to cause urinary tract infections. However, recurrent urinary tract infections can be hereditary. Other risk factors that can contribute to urinary tract infections are sexual activity and the use of pessaries or condoms with spermicides.
Elderly women who are in or after menopause may also be at risk for developing urinary tract infections. This is because the mucous membranes often become dry due to estrogen deficiency and dry mucous membranes make it easier for bacteria to attach.
When men get urinary tract infections, it is often due to prostate problems, which make it difficult to empty the bladder properly. When urine collects in the bladder, the risk of bacteria accumulating increases.
Symptoms of urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infections can occur suddenly and common symptoms are:
- Frequent urges, you need to go and pee often.
- Hard to hold you.
- Burning when you urinate.
- A feeling of not being able to empty the bladder properly.
- Slight nausea and pain in the lower abdomen.
- Bad-smelling urine and sometimes even blood in the urine.
How is urinary tract infection treated?
Urinary tract infections usually go away on their own within a week. But if the problems are great or if you are pregnant, antibiotics may be needed . If you have recurrent urinary tract infections, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor to prevent further urinary tract infections.
Some tips to avoid urinary tract infections
There are things you can do to prevent urinary tract infections. Here are some tips:
- Always wash and dry from the front and back. This reduces the risk of intestinal bacteria being able to enter the urethra. Also keep in mind that the mucous membranes down there protect you from bacteria. Excessive washing and drying can break the mucous membrane barrier and then the washing instead has the opposite effect by making the bacteria more easily attached.
- Walking around and staying is not recommended. Go to the toilet regularly and take the time you need to empty the bladder properly. This is how any bacteria are flushed out – completely naturally.
- Bacteria dislike an acidic environment. A more acidic pH value makes it more difficult for the bacteria to cling. This is why some people find that it helps to drink cranberry juice for urinary tract infections, as cranberry juice is acidic. It can also be good to watch out for sugar, which causes bacteria to grow and thrive.
If you have recurring problems with urinary tract infections, you can talk to your doctor. There is preventative treatment for urinary tract infections that can be helpful.