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How to prevent UTIs: complete guide for prevention and treatment

How to prevent UTIs

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Urinary tract infection (UTI) is unpleasant. The pain in the stomach is followed by a constant urge to urinate, then: a burning sensation and stinging when urinating: a urinary tract infection often comes “overnight”. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t go away that quickly. We outline how to prevent UTIs with a complete guide for prevention and treatment, covering women, men, children and pregnancy, and how to cure UTI problems.

UTI E. coli bacteria

Most times you will find the infection is UTI with E coli (Escherichia coli), because 80% of urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli bacteria. A UTI — also often called cystitis in its simple form (as opposed to complex UTIs) — is caused by a bacterial infection of the urinary tract, which leads to inflammation of the mucous membrane. With UTI E coli, bacteria lodge in the mucous membrane of the urinary tract, which swells and reacts with the typical signs of infection. Escherichia coli, as intestinal germs, are responsible for these urinary tract infections to an extent of 80%. The symptoms of a urinary tract infection are:

  • Burning sensation when urinating (dysuria),
  • Frequent urge to urinate with small amounts of urine (pollakiuria),
  • Pain in the lower abdomen,
  • Difficulty holding urine, or
  • Foul smelling, or bloody urine.

The diagnosis of a urinary tract infection should always be made by a doctor! The basis for this are the symptoms and a urine test that can detect inflammatory cells, blood and bacteria. Therapy consists of the administration of antibiotics. However, the relapse rate is high, with around 20% of people getting a repeated infection. If there are more than three infections per year, one speaks of recurrent urinary tract infections.

How to prevent UTIs: UTI causes in women

Two groups of women are primarily affected: those who are going through menopause and those who have started sexual activity (“honeymoon cystitis”). In pregnancy there are also incidences of urinary tract infections, but not as often as in the other two groups.

You can protect yourself against the agonizing infection with simple means. A combination of appropriate hygiene, medical precaution or herbal remedies can help in how to prevent UTIs (urinary tract infections) in the long term.

One reason why UTI women symptoms more often include burning sensations when urinating or a painful, frequent urge to urinate is the special features of the female anatomy. The woman’s urethra is only three to four centimeters long, which encourages germs to rise.

The urethra is in close proximity to the anus and vagina. Incorrect toilet hygiene and frequent sexual intercourse can quickly lead to bacterial colonization of the urinary tract due to the proximity to the anus.

Improper drinking and micturition behavior can also have a positive effect, as effective flushing and complete emptying of the bladder help to remove the bacteria that have invaded. A changed vaginal environment can also encourage the penetration and multiplication of bacteria.

Such changes in the vaginal environment occur during pregnancy, during the menopause due to the local hormone deficiency, when taking the pill or when using spermicides and the diaphragm. A local defense defect can also promote bladder infections, especially if an infection that has been treated with antibiotics has preceded it. Because antibiotics can change both the intestinal and vaginal flora.

How to prevent UTIs: UTI in pregnancy

UTI and pregnancy is something to be wary of. The hormonal balance of women changes during pregnancy, so it is not uncommon to suffer UTI when pregnant. Under the influence of certain hormones, the urinary tract dilates and makes it easier for bacteria to enter. In addition, the growing uterus can lead to congestion in the urinary tract, the urinary tract is no longer flushed well and the bacteria can easily settle.

An untreated UTI pregnancy bout also endangers the mother’s kidneys because the bacteria continue to rise. The common UTI symptoms pregnancy related are generally the same as for no-pregnant women (see above), including back pain in pregnancy which could be a sign or a serious UTI.

Some substances produced by bacteria can also promote premature birth and thus pose a risk to the child, so a UTI during pregnancy should not be ignored. Bacteria can also penetrate the birth canal and cause inflammation there. So it is best for mother and child if the infection is treated quickly and effectively if there is a UTI while pregnant.

How to prevent UTIs: dealing with UTI for men

Typical symptoms of urinary tract inflammation can be burning pain when urinating, frequent urination, weakened urine stream, discharge from the urethra or sometimes uncontrolled loss of urine.

UTI male symptoms are usually the same as for women, except that it is ften unsettling for the patient to experience the not infrequently visible blood admixture in the urine as part of the inflammation. Since blood is a powerful “dye”, even small amounts of it can lead to an intense red discoloration of the urine. In terms of quantity, therefore, the extent of blood loss is rarely dangerous.

Pain can occur in the area of ​​the lower abdomen and the flanks, but also in the area of ​​the perineum and genitals. Men with inflammation of the prostate gland may also have blood in the ejaculate and pain in the rectum.

Symptoms that indicate kidney involvement or more generally severe inflammation are particularly important. These are e.g. fever (> 38 ° C), chills, flank pain on one or both sides and a more or less pronounced feeling of illness – similar to the flu.

In addition, severe urinary tract infections can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Sometimes urinary tract infections only show a single symptom. Most of the time, there is a combination of symptoms. If these general symptoms occur, the doctor must be consulted quickly so that an examination and treatment can be initiated immediately.

How to prevent UTIs: dealing with UTI elderly sufferers

Urinary tract infections are among the most common infections in the elderly. The prevalence of UTI is only 2 to 4% in young women, but 6 to 8% in 60-year-old women and is even higher in older women. (1) Urinary tract infections are generally about half as common in men, but the prevalence also increases with age.

Whether urinary tract infections occur depends heavily on the living and housing situation. In elderly women who still live independently in their apartment, bacteriuria can only be detected in around 10%, but in elderly or nursing home residents of the same age in 25% or even more frequently.

Long-term studies also show that older people often suffer repeatedly from urinary tract infections that go away spontaneously. However, these urinary tract infections are often asymptomatic (show no symptoms).

The reasons for the increased susceptibility older people to urinary tract infections are diverse: decreased immune defense, neurogenic bladder problems, obstructive uropathies, increased adhesion of germs to the epithelial cells, increased risk of contamination from urinary or fecal incontinence, a change in the pH value of the vaginal and bladder environment and hormonal changes. Hospital catheters are also an important risk factor.

How to prevent UTIs: dealing with UTI kids, toddlers and babies

Urinary tract infections are common in children. They should always be treated as early as possible so that the inflammation does not spread any further. Generally if the children are over 6 years old, this is a simple matter.

However, UTI in toddler children and also UTI baby sufferers are more complex. Particular care is required with infants and young children. If the inflammation continues, pelvic inflammation may develop. In this case, symptoms such as fever, vomiting, abdominal and back pain can also occur. The urine is often cloudy and sometimes there is some blood in it.

Since the kidneys have yet to mature, there is a risk, especially in infants and small children, that if the bladder is infected, the bacteria will spread to the renal pelvis and cause inflammation there. Damage and long-term impairment of the kidney could be the result.

Therefore, bladder infections should always be treated by a pediatrician – usually with antibiotics – as early as possible.

How UTI is diagnosed

To clearly determine if a urinary tract infection is present, midstream urine bacteria are studied. If there are more than 100,000 germs per milliliter, there is definitely an infection of the urinary tract. However, in about half of the cases of urinary tract infections, no high bacterial counts can be detected.

A urine test, in which a test strip is held in the urine, can give an initial indication. The test strip shows increased values ​​for white blood cells (leukocytes) and nitrite in the event of a urinary tract infection. This examination is quick and inexpensive, but is not enough on its own to prove a urinary tract infection. That is why the urinary sediment becomesexamined under the microscope.

UTI home test

A urine test for at home usually consists of the test strip and an overview of the substances tested with a color scale for evaluation . A beaker may also be included to catch the urine. If not, plastic cups, for example, serve this purpose.

Taking a urine test isn’t complicated. First of all, you need to urinate in a clean mug. Then hold the test strip in the urine for a few seconds and then take it out again. Depending on the test, discoloration usually appears on the test strip after one to two minutes . You can compare this discoloration with the scale on the packaging and thus determine which substances are present in your urine and in what concentration.

In some cases, only the midstream urine should be used for the urine test. You can get this by first draining a little urine before using a cup. However, this is not always necessary, so read the package insert carefully beforehand.

A urine test at home is very useful, but it also has its limits. A urine test strip does not provide precise results, but only initial indications of an illness . In addition, drugs such as antibiotics can influence the test result. You should therefore always consult a doctor for a detailed examination and treatment. He can confirm the diagnosis using precise diagnostic methods such as a blood test.

Will UTI go away on its own?

An uncomplicated UTI usually heals on its own. Consequential damage does not occur either. Therefore, you do not have to do anything at first if you can bear the symptoms well. This is different to a UTI infection with complicated symptoms.

Uncomplicated urinary tract infections or cystitis means: Your symptoms come on suddenly and only affect the bladder and there are no risk factors that could worsen the course of the disease. These include diseases or changes in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra and circumstances that weaken the immune system, for example diabetes, HIV or certain medications.

UTI symptoms vs symptoms of other problems

A urinary tract infection is something of an umbrella term for an infection in a part or sometimes more than one part of the urinary tract. This tract includes everything from the kidneys, to bladder and urethra. While all UTIs usually have some symptoms that are the same (such as burning in urination) there are specific symptoms according to where the infection is located.

UTI discharge

Discharge is not a common symptom of urinary tract infections, so if you have discharge — either male or female — it is best to consult a doctor, as it may be a serious case or may be another problem entirely.

UTI kidney pain and UTI back pain

It is unusual for simple UTI to bring on pain above the bladder, e.g. on the body side (flank pain), on the back and in the kidney region. So a UTI with back pain or UTI lower back pain (near the kidneys) usually indicate that the infection has risen to the upper urinary tract (ureters, kidney pelvis). You should consult a doctor as soon as you are able, otherwise organ damage and other complications are possible if the condition is left untreated.

UTI blood in urine

Blood in the urine (haematuria) can sometimes occur with urinary tract infection. The cause of UTI bleeding should always be examined by a doctor, who will take a sample of UTI blood in urine for diagnosis.

UTI with fever

In severe cases, the urinary tract infection can also be accompanied by fever and chills. You should immediately consult a doctor as this could be a sign of a serious complicated UTI or even a kidney infection (see below).

UTI vs bladder infection

Common bladder infection symptoms are:

  • burning when urinating (dysuria)
  • feeling like you have to pee frequently, but very little urine comes out
  • pelvic pain or pain just above the pubic bone

Because most UTIs are bladder infections, these are the symptoms most people experience when they have a UTI. People with urethritis — an infection of the urethra, or the tubes that connect the bladder to the opening of the body — may also experience itching or irritation at the end of the urethra where the urine comes out.

UTI vs yeast infection

Yeast infection symptoms may include pain when urinating similar to the urination pain of a UTI, but you’ll also experience pain and itchiness in the affected area. Vaginal yeast infections also typically cause a thick, milky discharge.

UTI vs kidney infection

Kidney infection is a more serious UTI type. A kidney infection usually affects one kidney. The symptoms can include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • having urine that smells bad or is cloudy
  • lower back pain that’s more severe than a bladder infection
  • nausea
  • pink- or red-tinged urine, a sign of bleeding in the urinary tract
  • vomiting
  • burning when urinating (dysuria)
  • feeling like you have to pee frequently, but very little urine comes out
  • pelvic pain or pain just above the pubic bone

Usually, kidney infection symptoms are worse than those of a bladder infection, and kidney infection can be extremely serious and painful, sometimes leading to hospitalization to receive intravenous antibiotics. If left untreated, kidney infections due to UTIs can cause infections in the bloodstream. This can be life-threatening.

How to cure a UTI. Is a UTI curable?

An uncomplicated inflammation of the lower urinary tract can be treated well, and heals without consequences with timely therapy. But even ascending urinary tract infections with kidney involvement usually do not cause permanent damage with timely, professional therapy, often using simple UTI treatment antibiotics courses for the UTI cure.

UTI medication over the counter

There are several UTI over the counter medications on the market, but their effectiveness varies, and none of them are useful if you have a complex UTI that will require a prescription for antibiotics.

UTI treatment with prescription medication

Various preventive measures were examined in a US meta-study. Different efficacies have been proven. Based on the assumption that 3 infections occur annually, the following preventive measures were able to identify the cases of infection. Infections will be reduced each year.

Antibiotics

As long-term prophylaxis (longer antibiotic therapy for recurring urinary tract infections), an active ingredient is administered daily for at least 6 months; first, at least one urine culture with a proven germ that is sensitive to this active ingredient is required. Therapy takes 3 weeks to 3 months, depending on the intensity of the previous infection. However, the drug should not be taken for longer, as long-term treatment can develop bacterial resistance. If you stop taking the antibiotic after about 3-4 months, the bacterial flora is restored to normal. Another therapy is possible.

Estrogen

Recurring urinary tract infections are common in menopausal women. This is due to the falling estrogen level. An estrogen level in the normal range protects women from infections and triggers an immune response in the bladder when a pathogen penetrates. For recurrent urinary tract infections, estrogen is administered topically (through vaginal suppositories) and does not change the level of estrogen in the blood.

How to prevent UTIs: effective preventive measures

Liquid: drink, drink, drink is the first motto for how to prevent a UTI. If there is sufficient fluid intake, the bladder is flushed well and the pathogens have less chance of becoming lodged in the urethra.

Moderate hygiene: Hygiene with a sense of proportion is recommended, but should not be exaggerated, as the effects of chemical (washing) agents attack the bacterial flora and can be a breeding ground for pathogens. Avoid excessive genital hygiene that destroys the body’s own vaginal flora, avoid intimate sprays and the like

Moisture: Not scientifically proven, but it is likely that cold, wet swimming trunks, and moisture around the urethra can make infection more likely. Therefore, after bathing, you should change wet swimwear with dry ones to prevent infection.

Empty the bladder completely and regularly, especially after intercourse. The first step after sex should be to the toilet. Any germs that may have been transferred are rinsed out with the urine. It is best to drink enough water before and after intercourse, it makes it easier to “pee”.

If necessary, change the contraceptive method, avoid vaginal diaphragms and spermicides

Avoid cold if there is a tendency to recurrent urinary tract infections.

  • Do not sit on a cold surface
  • Change wet swimwear as quickly as possible
  • Keep the abdomen and kidney area warm at all times
  • Avoid cold feet – put on thick socks

But once the bladder infection is there, the following also applies: Warmth is the be-all and end-all. Warmth in the form of a hot water bottle, a grain pillow or a hot full bath can help relax the cramped, painful bladder muscles. Alternatively, you can take warm baths with chamomile or horsetail. The warm water in combination with these medicinal plants has anti-inflammatory effects and also relieves pain.

How to prevent UTIs: Recurring (recurrent) infections

Sometimes, however, these common preventive measures are not sufficient if a previous infection has not been eliminated or has not been eliminated sufficiently. Then it can occur again (relapse). Women in phases of hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause, also tend to have frequent, recurring urinary tract infections.

How to prevent UTIs: UTI treatment natural home remedies and preventive care options

According to the study mentioned above, cranberries are also very effective in prevention.

Acupuncture

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the function of the kidneys also includes that of the urogenital tract (urinary tract). The aim of acupuncture is to eliminate kidney weakness.

Cranberries

Cranberries in every form offer one way to protect yourself from recurring urinary tract infections. They lower the pH of the urine, it becomes more acidic – bacteria don’t like that. The antioxidant proanthocyanidin content of the berries (also contained in tea, cocoa and nuts) and the red pigment anthocyanin have a preventive effect against urinary tract infections. These active ingredients are antibacterial and prevent coli bacteria from settling on the mucous membrane of the urinary tract. So cranberry juice or tea is a great tasting way to prevent urinary tract infections

The cranberry also contains the substance proanthocyanins. The bacteria are flushed out with the urine, an infection can thus be prevented. How high the daily dose should be has not yet been fully proven scientifically. However, it has been shown that taking at least 50 ml of pure cranberry juice releases active ingredients into the urine about 2 hours after ingestion. This prevents the bacteria from attaching to the cells of the urinary tract. The effects wear off again after 8-12 hours.

Tea: Let the berries dry, mash them, and boil 1 teaspoon in 1/4 l boiling water for a few minutes. Let cool and pour through a sieve. If you have a bladder infection, drink 1-2 cups.

Fruits: Carefully chew 1 teaspoon of dried berries several times a day. Also helps with diarrhea and poor appetite.

Ginger, horseradish, honey etc

Other herbal preparations such as bearberry, nasturtium and horseradish with the ingredient angocin have also been investigated, but the effect has not yet been sufficiently proven. The horseradish root contains substances with an antimicrobial effect, so-called mustard oil glycosides. These work not only against bacteria, but also against viruses and fungi.

The tuberous plant ginger is also a popular and well-known home remedy that is often used both as a spice and as a tea. In the case of urinary tract infections, it is above all the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of ginger that can help.

Pumpkin seeds and celery, in turn, score with their diuretic and antibacterial ingredients.

New Zealand manuka honey is also very popular in the treatment of urinary tract infections. This special type of honey contains around a hundred times more methylglyoxal than conventional honey. It is an ingredient that is not only supposed to be anti-inflammatory, but also against bacteria, viruses and fungi.

The effectiveness of one of the most frequently used home remedies is currently still scientifically controversial: cranberries. The concentrated juice of cranberries is very popular with those affected both in the treatment and prophylaxis of cystitis. The red berries are rich in vitamin C, iron, antioxidants and the secondary plant substance proanthocyanidin. Cranberry extracts are said to prevent germs from sticking in the bladder, but this is discussed contradictingly in the literature.

Apple cider vinegar regimen

Another well-known home remedy for urinary tract infections is the well-known apple cider vinegar. This food is said to support the cleansing function of the kidneys and has a strengthening effect on the immune system. Apple cider vinegar also has a natural antibiotic effect.

In the form of a regimen, thanks to its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar can help fight the bacteria in the bladder and thus provide quick relief from unpleasant symptoms. To do this, simply stir a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of lukewarm water. In the case of acute inflammation of the bladder, it is best to drink a large glass of this apple cider vinegar mixture three times a day.

To prevent a recurrence of the bladder infection, this cure can be extended over a few weeks. However, it is recommended that you only drink a glass of this apple cider vinegar mixture once a day.

Since recurring urinary tract infections can also have “mechanical” causes (urinary stones, malformations, tumors), the urologist should always be consulted. An ultrasound of the kidneys and bladder as well as further clarification in the case of recurring infections using a bladder mirror can only be carried out by a urologist.