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3 Things to Know About a Urinary Tract Infection

March 23, 2017

chilled cranberry juice for urinary tract infection
A fairly common affliction among adults, a urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause pain — sometimes severe — and if left untreated, can progress into a more serious infection involving the kidneys. It causes over 8 million visits to healthcare professionals every year.

Whether you’ve experienced one or not, you’ve likely heard the advice that drinking cranberry juice can be an effective treatment and even preventative measure. But does it really work? Do you really need those antibiotics? Find the answers in these three things to know about a urinary tract infection.

1. Women are more prone to UTIs than men

A woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s. The shorter urethra allows bacteria to quickly travel to the bladder. Nearly 10 in 25 women will experience at least one UTI during their lifetime, while only three in 25 men will experience the same.

Post-menopausal women are also at risk because the decrease in estrogen leaves them more susceptible to infection. Estrogen helps trigger the production of antimicrobial proteins in the bladder and strengthens urinary tract tissue.

2. The infection doesn’t only occur in your bladder

Your kidneys, ureters and urethra are all part of your urinary tract and can all be infected. A kidney infection is called pyelonephritis, a bladder infection is called cystitis and an infection of the urethra is called urethritis.

An infection in your kidneys is more serious than elsewhere in your urinary tract. These infections can happen as a result of bacteria that has entered your urinary tract or an infection that is elsewhere in your body and spread through your bloodstream.

If you have a UTI and it’s not treated promptly, bacteria can travel up your ureters to your kidneys.

3. No, cranberry juice doesn’t help and yes, you likely do need antibiotics

Contrary to popular belief, drinking buckets of cranberry juice has no effect on an existing UTI and won’t help you prevent one. However, drinking plenty of fluids — cranberry or otherwise — can help keep you hydrated and flush out an existing infection.

Antibiotics are the primary form of treatment for UTIs caused by bacteria.

Like cranberry juice, many people swear by supposed natural remedies to treat UTIs. But if you experience symptoms of pain with urination, a strong persistent urge to urinate, cloudy, strong-smelling urine or blood in your urine, contact your doctor to get proper treatment.

Ideas for a week's worth of healthy meals.