A UTI is defined as an infection that occurs anywhere within the urinary system. They are very treatable, but that certainly does not make them any less bothersome. They typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra (this can happen in a number of ways) and begin to grow in the bladder.
While the urinary tract does have natural defenses against bacteria, sometimes they can get through, settling inside the urinary system.
There are two main types of UTIs which affect the urinary system in slightly different ways:
1) Cystitis (infection of the bladder)
Cystitis is a type of UTI most commonly caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli (better known as E. coli), which can be found in the digestive tract. For women, the cause of a bladder infection can be as simple as their anatomy. There is a short distance between the vaginal opening and the anus, as well as from the urethral opening to the urethra. The tiny distance can make bacteria transference easy. Cystitis can also be contracted from sexual intercourse.
2) Urethritis (infection of the urethra)
Infection of the urethra commonly occurs because the distance between the anus and urethra are close in proximity. Urethritis can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Although these infections occur in different parts of the urinary tract, they have very similar symptoms:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Frequent urination in small amounts
- Pelvic pain for women (occurs in the center of the pelvis near the pubic bone)
- Strong, persistent urge to urinate
- Strong-smelling urine
- Urine with a red, pink or cola-like color (signifies blood in urine)
As if these uncomfortable symptoms weren’t enough, UTIs come with a bevy of myths and rumors about how to treat them, contract them and prevent them. Below are seven popular myths that have been proven false regarding UTIs …
Myth 1: UTIs are a result of bad hygiene.
This is entirely untrue. According to Lisa Dabney, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in a recent interview with Self, she stated that the only way hygiene can increase the risk of a UTI is if women wipe back to front. This can cause bacteria from the anus to reach the urethra, allowing for a possible infection to form.
Myth 2: Only women can get UTIs.
It is true that women contract UTIs far more often than men, but the infections themselves are not limited to one gender. The differences in frequency between the two sexes can also be attributed to anatomy. For men, bacteria are less likely to travel such a far distance to reach the urethra and cause infection.
Myth 3: Cranberry juice can be used to prevent or treat UTIs.
Cranberry juice and cranberry supplements do have active ingredients (acidic properties) that can dissolve bacteria from the walls of the bladder, but they are not UTI treatments.
To better prevent UTIs, try supplements, such as D-mannose (a natural sugar derived from glucose), vitamin C or probiotics. These are all far more concentrated than cranberry juice/supplements. Not only can they prevent UTIs, but they also promote general health.
Myth 4: UTIs will go away on their own over time. No need to go to the doctor.
Before the advent of antibiotics, UTIs did go away on their own, but people experienced far more pain and discomfort during that time. To speed up the healing process, it’s recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible. By being proactive, a physician can confirm the UTI and prescribe the right medication to help remove the bacteria.
Myth 5: UTIs and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the same thing.
A UTI is by no means considered an STI. Even though UTIs can be caused by sexual intercourse, the two conditions are not related and have varying symptoms. Some STIs are either incurable or take much longer to treat than UTIs. The only correlation that the two often share is irritation when urinating.
Myth 6: Not having sex can avoid UTIs.
Sex is a known trigger for UTIs, but they can also be contracted from certain birth control medications, problems with the immune system or even urinary system abnormalities. Avoiding sex only eliminates one trigger.
Myth 7: Irritation when urinating automatically means it’s a UTI.
Irritation while urinating is a very common symptom related to UTIs, but it also applies to a number of other conditions. For women, irritation can mean a yeast infection or vaginitis. For both men and women, it can also be a symptom of an STI.
Contracting a UTI is not uncommon. It can occur at any age to any gender. If symptoms of a possible UTI do begin to show, it’s important to contact a doctor right away.
Meet the UTI Specialists
At Partners In Urology, we treat UTIs and other urologic conditions. With over 25 years of experience, we put our patients first, treating them with care and dignity.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.