Straight, No Chaser: Preventing and Treating Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
At some point, you’ve got to be on board with the notion that you need to prevent some of the things that ail you. All men who have UTIs are at higher risk for having another one. About one of every five women who have a UTI will have another one. Many women have three or more UTIs a year. This Straight, No Chaser will address preventative and treatment considerations for urinary tract infections. Check back to this Straight, No Chaser for a discussion of the how and why you get UTIs.
Some individuals have unfortunate anatomy, and others have increased risk factors due to diseases (e.g. diabetes) or a lowered immune system. Even in these individuals, improving daily habits and lifestyle choices may help you prevent repeat UTIs. There actually is a fair amount of controversy regarding methods of preventing and treating UTIs. The information I am providing represents the latest consensus information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Drinking lots of fluid (preferably water) can help flush bacteria from your system. Unless you have kidney or heart failure, you should try to drink six to eight, 8-ounce glasses a day.
Regarding cranberries and cranberry juice, the jury is still out. This is what we do know: there is a substance in cranberries that assist in preventing bacteria from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract. The ability to attach to the walls of your urinary tract keeps bacteria from being flushed out and allows them to grow and multiply. It seems that the amount of this substance in the typical glass of cranberry juice you’re drinking or serving of cranberries you’re eating is sufficient to completely prevent or treat UTIs. It is more likely that the benefit you’re receiving simply comes from drinking fluids. The bottom line? Drinking cranberry juice isn’t hurting you and may be helpful.
It’s just a good idea to urinate often. Whenever you feel the urge, and it’s convenient, eliminate the waste. Also, make a habit of urinating after sex, as soon as it’s convenient. These steps prevent bacteria from staying in your bladder longer than necessary, preventing the growth that can become a UTI.
It’s true: always wipe from front-to-back after using the toilet. A back-to-front wipe can deliver bacteria straying from the rectum (and inclined to cause a UTI) close enough to your urethral opening to get things started.
Using a diaphragm or spermicide increases bacteria growth and can lead to UTIs. If you’re not having an issue with this, that’s fine, but if you are, you may want to consider a different form of birth control. Furthermore, unlubricated or spermicidal condoms increase irritation of the vaginal walls, which may help bacteria grow and may lead to transport up the urinary tract. This is yet another reason why lubricated condoms without spermicide or a nonspermicidal lubricant are better options for safe sex.
Does wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes prevent UTIs? Probably not. Does doing so keep the area around the urethra dry? Yes. Nylon underwear and tight-fitting jeans can trap moisture and help bacteria grow. Use this information to your advantage. This is another example of how altering your habits may help and won’t hurt the cause.
Whether you’re a patient using a catheter to assist yourself with emptying your bladder, or if you’re placing objects into your genital orifices for other purposes (e.g. sexual stimulation), you should appreciate the risks found in not exercising good hygiene with these objects. The immediate proximity of these objects to your urinary tract certainly increases the risks of UTIs.
Treatment is usually straightforward and based on the eliminating the organisms most likely to be causing the infection. Treatment regimens range from 3 days to more than a week depending on certain considerations such as severity, resistance patterns in your area, whether you get frequent UTIs and whether you have certain risks or anatomical abnormalities in your urinary tract. Men should receive a longer course of treatment as a rule due to the involvement of the prostate.
Other treatment considerations involve pain control and plenty of fluids.
If your frequency or severity of UTIs requires as much, you may be referred to a urologist for specialized treatment considerations. However, for most people, this isn’t necessary because treatment is sufficient – and prevention is even easier.
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