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Answers to your burning questions about UTIs

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 2:40 PM

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common bacterial infections that can infect anywhere along the urinary tract; this includes the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys.

The most common site of infection is the bladder and the urethra. Nearly 50% of women have a UTI by the age of 35, whereas men rarely have UTIs.

UTIs have some trademark symptoms you may be familiar with, including:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate but only passing small amounts of urine
  • A burning sensation with urination
  • Urine with a cloudy appearance
  • Urine that has a strong or foul-smelling odor
  • Pelvic pain or pressure in women, rectal pain in men
  • Urine that is dark colored or appears bright pink or red, which is a sign of blood in the urine

What is the main cause of a UTI?

UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the urinary tract through the urethra. Women have a shorter urethra than men, which is why they are more predisposed to UTIs. The most common bacteria is E.coli, which is readily found in the gastrointestinal tract.

What happens if you don’t treat a UTI right away?

UTINeglecting a UTI could allow the infection to travel to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). Symptoms of a kidney infection can include back or side pain, fever, chills, shaking, nausea or vomiting.

If you start to feel the symptoms of a suspected urinary tract infection, make sure to seek care so that you can be appropriately evaluated. If a UTI is confirmed, the sooner you begin antibiotics, the better.

Will a UTI go away if you drink a lot of water?

Unfortunately, probably not. Some uncomplicated UTIs can be treated by increasing water alone, but antibiotics are often needed to help fully treat the infection. Increasing your water intake can help flush the bacteria out of the urinary system during treatment and it has also been shown to be a key tactic in prevention.

What’s with the cranberries and do they treat UTIs?

There is mixed data on the impact of cranberry juice, supplements and extract. There is some thought that cranberries (and blueberries) contain a substance that makes it harder for bacteria to stick to the walls of your bladder. But people should not rely on cranberries, supplements or otherwise, to prevent UTIs.

How long does it take to feel better after starting antibiotics?

It usually takes 1-2 days to feel better once you start antibiotics for a UTI. It is important that you complete the prescribed course of antibiotics. Stopping the medication when your symptoms improve could allow the infection a window of opportunity to return and be even more resistant.

What can you do to prevent a UTI?

  • Drink 1.5L of water per day. Evidence has shown increasing water intake will help flush bacteria from the urinary tract and ensure you are urinating regularly.
  • Empty your bladder often! Try not to hold your urine.
  • Make sure to urinate after sexual intercourse.
  • Remember to always wipe from the front to the back. This will help prevent E.coli from accessing the urethra.

With hundreds of board-certified physicians to choose from, you’re likely to find the perfect doctor for you close by. Find a doctor at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Need care now? Our board-certified providers ready to treat your non-emergency urgencies. Find an immediate care location near you.