Urinary tract infection (UTI)

What is it?

A urinary tract infection (UTI ), or “bladder infection” is not a sexually transmitted infection. A UTI is usually caused by bacteria from the bowels. 

How is it spread?

UTIs are common among individuals with vaginas because the opening of the urethra is very close to the vaginal and anal openings. There is a risk of bacteria from your bowels getting into your urethra by wiping from anus to vagina. Individuals with vaginas also have much shorter urethras which means it is easier for bacteria to travel into the bladder and cause an infection. The bladder is the organ that holds the urine before it comes out of the urethra (the tube that urine passes through).

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of a UTI may include:

How is it diagnosed?

Often a UTI can be diagnosed by symptoms alone. Your urine may be tested for the presence of bacteria as well.

What are the complications?

If a UTI is not treated, the infection may spread to the upper urinary system i.e. bladder and kidneys, which is a more serious infection and may lead to hospitalization. If you have a high fever, lower back pain, or blood in the urine, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How is it treated?

A UTI is easily treated with antibiotics. It is important to finish all of your medication even if the symptoms are gone. If your symptoms do not resolve or recur, it is possible that the bacteria are resistant to the antibiotic you took. It is recommended to get re-assessed and/or re-treated.

What about sexual partners?

UTIs are not sexually transmitted infections. Sexual activity can lead to a UTI but sexual partners do not need to be treated.

Prevention

You may be able to prevent (but not treat) UTIs by doing the following:

  • Drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
  • Drink a lot of unsweetened cranberry juice.
  • Urinate often.
  • Urinate before and after sex.
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
  • Wear loose pants.
  • Wear cotton underpants and choose pantyhose with a cotton crotch.
  • Do not douche.
  • Bathe frequently.

If you think you have a UTI you should:

  • Avoid drinking coffee, tea, pop, beer, wine, etc.
  • Avoid orange juice as it turns alkaline in your body.
  • Take vitamin C as it is a natural diuretic that will cause you to urinate more.

The worst thing you can do is to restrict fluid intake and urination, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids and go to the bathroom as much and as often as your body needs.