Being a woman, your chance of suffering from a urinary tract infection is considerable; with some experts ranking your lifetime risk of getting one as high as 1 in 2. As a matter of fact, many women are unfortunate enough to have repeated urinary infections, sometimes for years on end!

Though urinary tract infections can affect anyone, women are much more prone to infection than men. This is due to several factors, and the most notable of which is that the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the urinary bladder) is shorter in women than men and this makes it easier for bacteria to creep up and reach the bladder.  Also, the use of contraceptive diaphragms and spermicides (products that kill sperms such as foam or gel) may alter the normal bacterial environment around the urethra and make the probability of infection more likely.

It is also important to note that women who have gone through menopause tend to have some changes in the lining of their vagina and lose the protection of estrogen that naturally reduces the possibility of getting a urinary tract infection. Genetics too can play a role with some women being more predisposed to infection as their urinary tracts make it easier for bacteria to cling to its walls. 

Large numbers of bacteria live in the anal area and also on your skin. Bacteria may get into your urinary tract from the urethra and travel into the bladder. They may even travel up to the kidney. But no matter how far they go, bacteria in the urinary tract can cause you a good deal of trouble.

Here are some valuable tips that can help you reduce the risk of contracting a urinary tract infection:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep your urinary system healthier. When you urinate, bacteria are flushed from the urinary tract, so drink enough to go regularly and ensure that you are hydrated all the time.
  • Maintain good hygiene. Bacteria from your anal region can spread to the urinary tract; so, keep your genital area clean. If you are into the habit of using a tissue for cleaning after bowel emptying, wipe from front to back after using the bathroom and keep your vulva clean and dry.
  • Don’t let the bacteria flourish. Wear cotton underwear and panties that allow fresh air to pass through. Bacteria and fungus thrive in wet and moist areas (as much as you can, avoid tight jeans and nylon underwear — they can trap moisture and create the perfect environment for bacterial growth).
  • Boost your body`s stores of Vitamin C. Increase your intake of Vitamin C as it acidifies the urine, thus hampering the growth of bacteria. If you are prone to urinary tract infections then taking 1000mg of Vitamin C on daily basis can help.
  • If you feel like urinating, do not hold it any longer. Frequently flushing your bladder helps to avoid urinary tract infections. It is also a healthy habit to empty your bladder before you go to bed at night.
  • Cranberries can be more than just another side dish on your dining table. They actually contain compounds that can help prevent recurring urinary tract infections. Moreover, it is often recommended by doctors to bring relief to the kidney and urinary tract issues. Other acidic juices such as grapefruit and orange can also serve as a precaution against urinary tract infections.

When to seek medical help?

The above-mentioned tips help women to avoid or prevent urinary tract infections. Nevertheless, you are encouraged to call your trusted doctor if you start to experience symptoms highly suspicious of urinary tract infection such as frequent urination, an intense urge to urinate, discomfort or pain with urination, change in urine color or cloudy urine with a strong smell. If these symptoms are accompanied by fever, nausea or back and loin pain, then the possibility is higher that the infection may have progressed to a kidney infection. It is especially important for any pregnant woman who has symptoms suggestive of an ensuing urinary tract infection to call her gynecologist without delay.

Recurrent urinary tract infections could be suggestive of co-morbid undiagnosed or improperly controlled diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus or structural abnormality in the urinary tract etc.

Most of the urinary tract infections can be treated effectively with oral antibiotics.
Keep this in mind, the last thing you want to do is ignore a urinary tract infection. Squash embarrassment by talking to your trusted doctor about how you’re feeling and enjoy the fruit of everlasting health.

Dr. Vandana Bhandula, MD
Obstetrics and Gynaecology Specialist
Women`s Health Expert

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