Your Guide to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Studies on the effectiveness of cranberry juice for preventing or treating UTIs have produced mixed results. The red berry contains a tannin that prevents E. coli bacteria - the most common cause of urinary tract infections - from sticking to the walls of the bladder, where they can cause infection. However, a 2012 review of 24 studies looking into the effectiveness of cranberry juice/extract on UTIs found they did not significantly reduce the incidence of UTIs.
About 1 in 5 women experience a second urinary tract infection, while some are plagued incessantly. In most cases, the culprit is a different type or strain of bacteria. But some types can invade the body's cells and form a community safe both from antibiotics and the immune system. A group of these renegades can travel out of the cells, and then re-invade, ultimately establishing a colony of antibiotic-resistant bacteria primed to attack again and again.
Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs, while others have abnormalities in the structure of their urinary tract that make them more susceptible to infection. Women with diabetes may be at higher risk, as well, because their compromised immune systems make them less able to fight off infections like UTIs. Other conditions that increase risk include pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, and anything that affects urine flow, such as kidney stones, stroke, and spinal cord injury.
UTI Treatment Options
If you have 3 or more UTIs a year, ask your doctor to recommend a special treatment plan. Some treatment options include:
- Taking a low dose of an antibiotic over a longer period to help prevent repeat infections
- Taking a single dose of an antibiotic after sex, which is a common infection trigger
- Taking antibiotics for 1 or 2 days every time symptoms appear
- Using an at-home urine test kit when symptoms start
The tests, which are available without a prescription, can help you determine whether you need to call your doctor. If you're on antibiotics, you can test to see if they've cured the infection (although you still need to finish your prescription). Contact your doctor if the test is positive, or if your symptoms continue, despite a negative test result.