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Urinary Tract Infections in Women

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urinary tract infections account for about 8.3 million doctor visits each year, and many of these involve women. Women are especially susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTI). Although the reasons why are not fully understood, it is thought that the female anatomy makes women more prone to these infections.

UTIs usually occur when bacteria from the bowel enter the urethra, the channel that carries urine out of the body. Because the urethra in women is short and is located close to the rectum, the bacteria have easy access to the urinary tract, traveling from the urethra into the bladder and, occasionally, into other parts of the urinary tract, such as the ureters or the kidneys. When the bacteria multiply, the result is a UTI.

Urinary Tract Infections in Women  -   download

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a UTI include a strong, frequent urge to urinate, sharp pain or burning during urination, and tenderness or soreness in the lower abdomen, back or sides. Frequently the urine may appear cloudy, or may have a red or orange tinge due to the presence of blood. If the bacteria "back up" into the ureters or kidneys, the symptoms may include back pain, fever, chills, nausea and even vomiting. This is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment.

How is a UTI treated?
UTIs are easily treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may test a sample of your urine to determine the presence of bacteria. He or she can then prescribe an antibiotic that will be effective in eliminating the infection, and relieving your symptoms. Even though you may feel better after a day or so, it is important that you finish all of your medication as prescribed, or the infection and symptoms will return, and may result in more serious problems.

How can a UTI be prevented?
There is no sure way of preventing a UTI, but women can take steps to avoid an infection:

  1. Drink plenty of water daily. Many women report that cranberry juice is helpful in preventing and reducing the symptoms of an infection. This may be because the juice makes urine more acidic and limits the growth of bacteria.
  2. Urinate frequently. Urinating is the body's way of flushing out the bladder and urethra; resisting the urge to urinate means that any bacteria in the bladder or urethra have more of a chance to grow. At the same time, resisting the urge can weaken the bladder muscle to the point where it may not empty completely, which increases the risk of infection.
  3. Wipe from the front to the back to reduce the likelihood of bacteria from the rectum entering the urethra.
  4. Take showers instead of baths.
  5. Cleanse the genital area before sexual intercourse.
  6. Avoid sprays, douches, and similar products that may irritate the urethra.