How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

You might not want to talk about them, but infections of the urinary tract and genital area are not only annoying, they can be dangerous. Their symptoms can include painful and frequent urination, fever, chills, abdominal and back pain, and itching. Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to avoid these infections and keep your private parts working their best. In this article, we'll look at bladder infections, kidney infections, and yeast infections. Here's a quick preview:

  • Preventing Bladder Infections­The most common cause of bladder infections is E. coli bacteria. Symptoms of this common urinary tract infection (UTI) include painful urination; frequent urination; cloudy, blood-tinged, or smelly urine; abdominal pain; and fever. Women are at greater risk for bladder infections than men. Fortunately, bladder infections are easily treated with antibiotics. Drinking lots of water -- and going to the bathroom as soon as you have the urge -- can ward off bladder infections.
  • Preventing Kidney Infections Kidney infections can be caused by the same bacteria that cause bladder infections, or by bacteria in your bloodstream from another infection in your body. Sometimes kidney infections result from an untreated, or poorly treated, bladder infection. A person with a kidney infection might have the same symptoms as a bladder infection, plus severe back and abdominal pain and a high fever. The good news is prompt treatment with antibiotics will clear the infection.
  • Preventing Yeast Infections­ Candida albicans, a yeast normally found in your body, can become out of balance and multiply, causing a yeast infection. Yeast infections occur inside the vagina and around the vaginal opening. The uncomfortable symptoms include itching, discharge, pain, and redness. A physician can diagnose the infection, and over-the-counter treatments are available. There are also several steps you can take to avoid yeast infections.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Preventing Bladder Infections

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Drinking cranberry juice can help fight bladder infections.

Bladder infections are common in women, and are usually not a serious problem when treated properly. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting a bladder infection. Here are the details.

Bladder Infection (Cystitis) Information

A variety of microorganisms can cause UTIs, but Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are the most common cause of bladder infections. Staphylococcus saprophyticus (S. saprophyticus) bacteria can cause cystitis, as well, and Proteus mirabilis (P. mirabilis) bacteria can cause UTIs and produce kidney stones.

Bacteria that move from the colon to the bladder via the urethra (the tube that carries urine outside the body) often trigger this common UTI. Symptoms can range from mild to awful and include painful urination; a burning sensation during urination; frequent trips to the bathroom (often with very little result); cloudy, blood-tinged, or smelly urine; abdominal pain; and fever. Cystitis may clear up on its own, but antibiotics are often prescribed. If treated, cystitis usually won't result in any complications, but if ignored, the infection can spread to the kidneys (pyelonephritis).

Who's at Risk for Bladder Infections?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, women make more than eight million physician visits a year as a result of UTIs. As many as 20 percent of women have had or will have a UTI in their lifetime, and 80 percent of those women will probably experience a repeat infection in less than a year. Men can get UTIs, too, but they are usually related to obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate gland.

Why are women so unlucky when it comes to UTIs? The female anatomy is one reason. Women have a shorter urethra, which means bacteria have a shorter trip to infect the bladder and other components of the urinary tract. Sexually active women can have bacteria more easily introduced into their urethra, and the hormonal changes pregnant women go through may also contribute to the higher incidence of UTIs. In addition, women who use a diaphragm for birth control also have a higher risk as do those who have a tendency to "hold it" rather than using the bathroom when the urge to urinate hits.

Regardless of sex, anyone who uses a urinary catheter for a prolonged period of time, has experienced changes in their immune system, or has a stone that can block the flow of urine has an increased risk of cystitis and other UTIs.

Defensive Measures Against Bladder Infections

Try these simple tips to avoid cystitis and other UTIs:

  • Get on the juice. Cranberry juice is a generally accepted way of fighting a bladder infection, but if you don't like the taste, you can try citrus juices. The vitamin C in citrus juices may combat UTIs the same way cranberry juice does.
  • Drink up. Drinking lots of water will stimulate urination and help the body flush out bacteria. It also will cause you to make more frequent trips to the bathroom if you tend to wait.
  • Go when you gotta. Don't stand around crossing your legs waiting until you're about to burst. Make an effort to use the bathroom as soon as you get the urge.
  • Practice even safer sex. Using the bathroom before and after sexual intercourse can help flush out bacteria and drastically lower your chance of getting a UTI. Some physicians will prescribe a single pill of antibiotics to be taken after intercourse and emptying of the bladder to women who have frequent cystitis.
  • Beware of certain birth control. Using a diaphragm or spermicides that contain nonoxynol-9 might put women at higher risk of developing a bladder infection. If you suffer frequent UTIs, talk with your physician about other forms of birth control.
  • Get in the hygiene habit. Women should wipe from front to back to avoid transporting bacteria from the colon to the urethra. If you are prone to UTIs, take showers rather than baths and gently wash your vaginal and anal areas with a mild soap. But don't go too far -- avoid feminine hygiene sprays and douches.

While bladder infections are unpleasant, they do not present a significant danger to your health. Kidney infections, on the other hand, are very similar, but can be much more dangerous. On the next page, we will examine what causes kidney infections and how you can prevent them.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Preventing Kidney Infections

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Treating a UTI early is the best way to avoid a kidney infection.

Kidney infections often result from a UTI, like a bladder infection, that has not been treated correctly. Their symptoms can be severe, especially in elderly patients. Fortunately, antibiotics can successfully treat these infections.

Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis) Information

The same bacteria that cause bladder infections often cause pyelonephritis, but your kidneys can also become infected by bacteria in the bloodstream that travel from an infection in another part of your body.

Essentially, pyelonephritis is a UTI, such as cystitis, gone bad. The bacteria that cause the UTI may have been left untreated or were inadequately treated with antibiotics. Those bacteria then make their way up through the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder) to the kidneys. If you have pyelonephritis, you will have all the symptoms of a bladder infection, but you may also have more intense back and/or abdominal pain, a fever that goes higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit and lasts for more than a couple of days, chills, vomiting, reddened and moist skin, and fatigue. Elderly people with kidney infections often are mentally confused. Pyelonephritis can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

Who's at Risk for Kidney Infections?

Elderly people and people with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible to pyelonephritis, as are those who have recurrent UTIs or a history of urinary tract obstructions, such as kidney stones. Most people who get UTIs will not end up with pyelonephritis if they seek prompt treatment.

Defensive Measures Against Kidney Infections

Getting treatment for a UTI as soon as you notice a problem is the best way to avoid pyelonephritis.

While both bladder infections and kidney infections are caused by bacteria, yeast infections, another common UTI, are caused by a yeast imbalance in the body. Read the next page to learn the symptoms of yeast infections and the steps you can take to avoid them.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Preventing Yeast Infections

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. To prevent yeast infections, change out of damp clothing after exercising.

Most women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. Some even have recurring bouts of this uncomfortable infection. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can keep yeast infections at bay.

Vaginal Yeast Infection Information

Candidiasis is an infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans. Although Candida albicans is normally present in the body, if an imbalance occurs, the fungus multiplies quickly and causes the symptoms of vaginal candidiasis.

A vaginal yeast infection develops inside the vagina and around the vaginal opening when Candida albicans begin to multiply quickly. The infection causes intense itching, a thick white discharge, pain and redness, and pain during urination. It's best to seek diagnosis from a physician the first time a suspected infection occurs. Women who have occasional repeat yeast infections usually can get satisfactory treatment from over-the-counter creams and medications.

Who's at Risk for Vaginal Yeast Infections?

The majority of women have at least one bout with vaginal candidiasis during adulthood. Women who are pregnant, have weakened immune systems, or have chronic conditions such as diabetes are at increased risk. Women who use broad-spectrum antibiotics or corticosteroid medications also are at risk because the medications can kill off "good" bacteria and allow Candida albicans to thrive.

Defensive Measures Against Vaginal Yeast Infections

There are several measures you can take to prevent a recurrence of vaginal candidiasis:

  • Keep the vaginal area clean and dry. Use unscented soap and don't be tempted to use douches or feminine hygiene sprays. Even something as simple as scented laundry detergent can leave residue on undergarments that irritates the vaginal area and encourage Candida albicans to multiply.
  • Avoid tight clothing and opt for cotton underwear rather than nylon underwear. Pantyhose also can trap moisture, which is never a good idea when it comes to preventing yeast infections.
  • Pregnancy changes everything, and your hormones are certainly no exception. Hormonal changes can sometimes trigger yeast infections, so it is especially important to keep the vaginal area dry during pregnancy.
  • Watch your use of medications, especially antibiotics, because they can kill the body's beneficial bacteria and cause a yeast infection. Talk with your physician if you have questions about any medications you take.
  • After swimming or exercising, quickly change out of damp clothing and thoroughly dry the vaginal area.

Dr. Larry Lutwick is a Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York - Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, New York and Director of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Health Care System, Brooklyn Campus.  He is also Bacterial Diseases Moderator for the real time online infectious diseases surveillance system, Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED-mail) and has authored more than 100 medical articles and 15 book chapters. He has edited two books on infectious diseases.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.