Reviewed by Trina Pagano on May 03, 2012

Sources

American Urological Association; Niall Galloway, MD, Medical Director, Emory Continence Center, Emory University School of Medicine.

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Video Transcript

Emory Urologist Niall Galloway is a busy man. That's because urinary tract infections—known as UTI's--are responsible for more than seven million doctor visits each year.

UTI's happen when germs back up into the bladder through the urethra—the opening where urine comes out. Left untreated, UTI's can lead to infection of the kidneys, and worse.

An infection within the kidney can cause kidney damage, it can lead to stone formation, it can lead to abscess

The American Urological Association says some 40 percent of women and 12 percent of men will experience at least one symptomatic UTI during their lifetime

and many will continue to have them. Women are especially prone to UTI's, due to pregnancy, menopause, the use of birth control methods like diaphragms and condoms, not to mention basic anatomy.

Urethras are like noses, some people have long ones and some people have short ones. And the patients who are more prone to infection oftentimes have a shorter urethra.

So are some of us just doomed to have those painful burning feelings? Not at all, says Dr. Galloway, you just need to learn how to prevent them:

You put the fire out in the bladder by putting water on the fire, by drinking water.

The other thing that you actively want to do is you want to actively empty your bladder.

And many patients with a urinary tract infection say it burnt the last time, so I'm going to hold and hold and hold,

and that is effectively locking and trapping these germs in the bladder so that they can cause you more problems.

So drink, drink, drink. But not alcohol

Alcohol in the bladder is like gasoline on the embers of infection.

That's not the only thing that feeds those pesky organisms….so can sugary foods and fruits…

The key is to keep your urine acidic. Many recommend unsweetened cranberry or blueberry juice--it's believed the acid in the juice bonds with bacteria and keeps it from attaching to the bladder walls.

Dr. Galloway recommends vitamin C tablets—1000 mg.

If you take that with your evening meal, then what that will do is effectively acidify your urine in the nighttime hours, which is the time when the germs have the greatest advantage.

More tips: wear skirts, absolutely no tight pants, and be careful of sanitary pads—

To wear a pad that is a menstrual product is never a good idea unless you're actively menstruating

And if you're one of the unlucky women whose UTI's are triggered by sexual intercourse?

The best time for sexual intercourse is first thing in the morning. And then you have two glasses of water, and then you go to work and you have two more glasses of water,

and you have two more glasses of water, for an interval of about six hours, and by that time, the risk has passed.

For WebMd, I'm Sandee LaMotte.