Understanding UTIs in Women (and How To Prevent Them)
Many women don’t think about it, but bladder infections (otherwise known as urinary tract infections) are one of the most common reason for doctor visits. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation reports that one in five women will have at least one UTI in her lifetime.
Dr. Lynem-Walker, an internal medicine physician with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, says she sees many female patients with this kind of infection.
But what causes a UTI, and why are they so common in women? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this condition occurs when bacteria enter and infect the urinary tract.
“Women tend to get more bladder infections than men because women have a shorter urethra,” said Dr. Lynem-Walker. “It is easier for bacteria to move up to their bladders.”
She adds that symptoms of bladder infections differ for each patient. Sometimes they can be vague such as pelvic pressure or having to urinate frequently. Other times, symptoms can be distressing such as pain on one side of the back or ribs, blood in the urine, nausea or vomiting.
If your doctor suspects a bladder infection, they will likely test your urine for bacteria and then determine a treatment option based on the results.
“It is easily treated with a course of antibiotics that are usually given over a three day period,” said Dr. Lynem-Walker. “A longer course of (antibiotic) therapy may be given if you have diabetes, or if the infection has moved up to the kidneys.”
There are steps women can take to help prevent bladder infections. Dr. Lynem-Walker shares the following tips:
- Drink lots of water, especially throughout the day
- Empty the bladder completely when urinating
- Urinate after sexual intercourse
- Change sanitary napkins often
- For post-menopausal women, consider using a vaginal estrogen cream
For more information on bladder infections, prevention and treatment, visit www.womenshealth.gov.
Photo credit: Lindsey Turner