For women, there’s a more than 50 percent chance of getting at least one urinary tract infection in your lifetime. In the U.S., this annoying infection results in some 8 million doctor visits each year; so you wouldn’t be the first. What you do need to know is how to recognize and prevent them.
Have you ever wondered why UTIs affect women more than men? It’s related to your anatomy. Basically, UTIs often happen when bacteria (particularly in fecal matter) get inside the urinary tract through the urethra.
The body is designed to get rid of some of this bacteria through urine. Still, it doesn’t always remove everything.
In women, this infection happens more often because they have a shorter distance between the urethra and the bladder. Bacteria have a much easier time traveling to the urinary tract and setting up camp.
Also, sexually active women have a higher chance of getting a UTI. According to Dr. James Wantuck, the chief medical officer of PlushCare, anything placed inside the vagina will increase the risk for infection.
In addition, sexual activity puts women at greater risk because another human body is coming in close contact with the urethra. The risk comes from the likelihood that fecal matter may get transferred into this sensitive area. If you have any reason for concern, it’s worth a trip to the doctor.
To help you recognize a urinary tract infection, you should get familiar with its common signs. Wantuck says that if you’re noticing a change in this area like frequent urination, you most likely have a UTI on your hands.
1. Change in Urine Color
One of the most obvious signs of a urinary tract infection is a change in the urine itself. You may notice a darkening or cloudiness about it, and you might even see blood. With these symptoms, you should look into a UTI right away.
2. A Strong Smell
If you’ve noticed an unusually strong smell accompanying urine, this odor may be a sign of infection. While urine already has a unique smell, you consider the possibility of infection if the smell seems stronger than normal.
3. Abdominal or Back Pain
Along with a urinary tract infection, you might also experience abdominal or back pain, especially the lower back. Both can signify an infection, and back pain may also signify a kidney infection.
Since the urinary tract is part of the digestive system, you could also experience nausea or vomiting. Especially if this nausea accompanies other UTI symptoms, you should look for answers.
Sometimes, an infection will also cause a fever and chills. If you have a catheter, fever may actually be the only symptom. If the fever gets high and is accompanied by chills, fatigue, or mental abnormalities, you may have a severe kidney infection. In this case, you should visit a doctor immediately.
Again, you should look into the problem if you have any of the above symptoms. While UTIs cause relatively little harm, they can get dangerous if left undiagnosed.
If you do have an infection, your doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic for 2–3 days. A more severe infection may require a longer treatment time, but the antibiotics will resolve most cases of UTI.
An Ounce of Prevention
You may have heard the saying by Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This saying rings true for UTIs as well. You should take a few steps in preventing this common infection:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Use absorbent cotton underwear.
- Wipe from front to back.
- Avoid feminine products or birth control methods that insert into the vagina, or wash hands and the vaginal area thoroughly first.
- Urinate immediately after sexual intercourse.
If anything abnormal arises, check into it right away so that you can quickly return to normal life with normal urinary habits.
This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.