A few months ago, I was waiting on a subway platform with my friend when I noticed her sipping on something from a jar. I side eyed her for a second and was thinking, “WTF is that?” But then, it hit me like a pile of bricks: Cranberry juice. My friend was drinking cranberry juice on a subway platform. This might sound like a weird quirk out of context, so let me fill you in: This friend of mine suffers from chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs), and cranberry is supposed to help ease the symptoms.
UTIs tend to get a bad rep: They’re often associated with promiscuity since many often contract them after sex. But, frankly, a lot of people don’t know the nitty gritty about UTIs or how they’re caused. Before passing judgement, maybe we should all just get reacquainted (or, perhaps, acquainted for the first time) about what exactly a UTI even is. So, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about UTIs.
What exactly is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection that occurs somewhere in your urinary system. That means you can be infected in your urethra, kidneys, or bladder. However, they usually occur in the urethra or bladder; a kidney infection is a little more serious.
What causes them?
You can thank our good friend bacteria for that one. Basically, bad bacteria travels up your urinary tract and causes all sorts of foolishness. So it’s essentially a bacterial infection that just so happens to affect some really intimate, er, areas.
What are some UTI symptoms?
Here are the most common symptoms that accompany a UTI:
- Burning sensation while peeing or feeling like it’s almost impossible to urinate
- Frequent urge to pee, even if you don’t really need to
- Pain, pressure, or sharp sensations in your abdomen or lower back
- Cloudy urine
- Strange smelling urine
- Chills or other feverish sensations
I heard people only get UTIs after having sex, is that true?
Okay, so here’s the deal: Most UTIs do, in fact, happen after sexual intercourse. Why? Your vag is very vulnerable to bacteria when you and bae are getting it on, and that bacteria has easy access to your urinary tract. But sex is not–I repeat, not— the only cause of UTIs. You can also get a UTI by wiping from back to front after using the bathroom (sup e.coli?), holding in your urine for a long time, or by being unlucky enough to have a crappy immune system.
So, like, will it just…go away eventually?
Maybe, but UTIs are nothing to joke around about, dude. Please, if you think you have one, don’t just chug cranberry juice and cross your fingers. GO TO THE DOCTOR. They can prescribe you antibiotics, which will absolutely make your UTI go away. Seriously, don’t self-medicate; a UTI can become more serious if you ignore it for too long. If left untreated, it can lead to a kidney infection, which is much more painful and difficult to get rid of.
How can I prevent getting UTIs in the future?
Since most UTIs occur after sex, it’s highly recommended that you urinate right after doing the deed, like, within 30 minutes after (and the sooner, the better). This helps flush any bad bacteria that might be lurking in or around your urethra. Here are some other things you can do:
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Never hold your urine for long amounts of time; doing this every now and then in an emergency won’t automatically lead to a UTI, but don’t get into the habit of doing it.
- Always wipe from front to back.
- Keep your vag area as dry as possible; damp environments down south are the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria to fester (hello, yeast infections!). You could be vulnerable to a UTI if you don’t change your undies enough, leave on underwear that you exercised in, frequently wear tight pants for long periods of time, etc.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Drinking plenty of water flushes out your body, which includes the bad bacteria down there.
Okay, so I get UTIs all the time. Is this a serious problem?
You’re actually not alone. While UTIs are very common, frequent UTIs aren’t all that uncommon; one in five women experience more than one UTI in their lifetime. If you have them frequently, your best bet is to just get checked out as often as possible and make sure you don’t have any underlining conditions that make you an easy target for UTIs, like diabetes, MS, etc.
Have you ever had a UTI? What did you do to get rid of it? Tell us in the comments!