You've coped with cramps, tampons, and padded bras, but being a woman can also mean having to cope with urinary tract infections, or UTIs. In fact, some experts rank your lifetime risk of getting one as high as 1 in 2 -- with many women having repeat infections, sometimes for years on end. Here's how to handle UTIs, whether you're experiencing your first or fifth infection, and how to make it less likely you'll get one in the first place.
By Cynthia HansonIt's the four-letter word no woman likes to utter. How to ask for what you
It wasn’t until Kathleen Hornstein realized that she couldn’t move her legs
that she finally broke down and asked for help. A 34-year-old Pilates
instructor and mom of two, Hornstein was pregnant with twins, and despite being
overextended and overtired, she had barely slowed down and prided herself on
being able to handle anything that came her way. Then, during her second
trimester, as she sat...
UTIs are a key reason we're often told to wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. That's because the urethra -- the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body -- is located close to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, are in the perfect position to escape the anus and invade the urethra. From there, they can travel up to the bladder, and if the infection isn't treated, continue on to infect the kidneys. Women may be especially prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras, which allow bacteria quick access to the bladder. Having sex can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, too.
Symptoms of UTIs
To identify an UTI, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
A burning feeling when you urinate
A frequent or intense urge to urinate, even though little comes out when you do
Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling urine
Feeling tired or shaky
Fever or chills (a sign the infection may have reached your kidneys)
Tests and Treatments for UTIs
If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, head to the doctor. You'll be asked to give a urine sample, which will be tested for the presence of UTI-causing bacteria. The treatment? Antibiotics to kill the intruders. As always, be sure to finish off the prescribed cycle of medicine completely, even after you start to feel better. And drink lots of water -- and cranberry juice -- to help flush the bacteria from your system. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to soothe the pain -- a heating pad may also be helpful.