How can women prevent urinary tract infections?

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Q: How can women prevent urinary tract infections?

A: Urinary tract infections (“bladder infections” or “UTI’s”) are much more common in women than men mostly due to anatomy: women’s urethras are much shorter.  Most women experience at least one UTI in their lifetime and many especially unlucky ladies experience multiple UTIs. In one study, 27% of college women with UTI had recurrence of their UTI within 6 months.

The most common cause of a UTI is bacteria that live in and around the anus.  These critters can travel to the urethra, especially during sex or when wiping from back to front after going to the bathroom.

So what can you do to prevent them?!

  • Avoid the use of spermicides, which can harm the normal “healthy” vaginal bacteria
  • Drink plenty of fluids and urinating after sex to “flush out” bad bacteria
  • Drink cranberry juice, which acidifies the urine and helps prevent bacteria from clinging to the wall of the bladder where they cause infection
  • Make sure to wipe front to back every time you go to the bathroom
  • Some women who have frequent UTI’s may need daily antibiotics to prevent them

If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection – burning with urination, blood in your urine, urinary urgency (the need to go “all of a sudden”), urinary frequency or cloudy/foul smelling urine – be sure to see your health care provider for evaluation.  If left untreated, UTI’s can occasionally progress into more serious infections of the kidneys. 

Angela Walker, Med IV (Ohio State College of Medicine)

Sheila Westendorf, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)

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