All about urinary tract infections (UTIs)

If you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), not only will you be in a great deal of pain, you may be dealing with unnecessary shame about getting one, because there’s a lot of old-fashioned nonsense around.

We’re here to help. Let’s quickly clear up some myths about UTIs, then get straight to a solution so you can feel better soon.

Are UTIs just a women’s health issue?

No, they’re not. This is a big misconception, men can get UTIs too, especially as they age, getting blockages in the urinary tract (kidney stones, enlarged prostate) or if they have a suppressed immune system due to diabetes which increases the risk.

The reason why more women get UTIs is simple biology. All humans have a urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra), but in males the urethra extends further into the body and is protected by the penis. In females, the biological design is different. The urethra is shorter and is within close proximity to the anus which means that bacteria from the anus can easily enter and infect the urinary tract.

As many UTIs occur after sexual activity, it is crucial that both partners take responsibility for cleanliness and regular STD check-ups to ensure mutual health ensues.

Are UTIs always caused by sex? 

No, this is another myth. It’s not always caused by sex, but sexual activity does increase the risk of UTI.

Which has added to the shame spiral many feel when they get a UTI. This, in turn, means they’re unlikely to get medical advice or treatment.

Again, it’s biology – we’re all slightly different down there. Some females lack, or are low, in the healthy bacteria in or around the vagina, which will fend off bad bacterial intruders. It’s just a design issue. It’s not their fault.

How do I know if I have a UTI?

According to our contacts at the Mayo Clinic, there are many symptoms which may include:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
  • Your urine may also develop a strong smell or get cloudy or foamy — evidence of excess protein in the urine.

If you have any of these (ouch – we feel your pain) – make a note of the symptoms that you have (because your brain might go blank when you’re facing a medical professional). Let’s move swiftly on to treatment options.

How do you treat a UTI? 

UTIs are caused by harmful bacteria so require an antibiotic (it’s in the name). Take your list of symptoms to either your primary care provider, or an in-store clinic with a pharmacist. The standard practice is to prescribe a three to five day course of antibiotics to see if that clears up the UTI.

If you’re still experiencing symptoms, go back to the medical professionals for more guidance.

Can’t I just drink cranberry juice?

Some people do find cranberry juice helpful – the concept behind this was that the fruit acids cause a bacteriostatic effect in the urine (there’s a medical study here if you want to know more). However, the concentration of the compound in cranberries that promotes urinary tract health may be not concentrated enough to make a real impact. When you’re next at the drugstore, look out for cranberry supplements. They have a much higher concentration of that compound and might prove effective for maintaining urinary tract health, not treating UTIs.

But if you’ve got a bacterial infection, you’re going to need something that fights bacteria (antibiotics) to treat it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, otherwise it could escalate.

We hope you feel better soon.