Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that have spread from the rectum to the vagina or penis and then to the urethra and bladder. They may be sexually transmitted. UTIs include infections of the bladder — also called cystitis; the ureters — the tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder; and the urethra — the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body. Severe cases, left untreated, may cause kidney infection.

Common Symptoms


  • Burning pain during urination
  • The urge to urinate when the bladder is nearly empty
  • A frequent urge to urinate, especially at night
  • Involuntary loss of urine
  • Lower abdominal pain or back pain
  • Blood and pus in urine
  • Fever
UTIs are common in women and men who are sexually active. They affect women more often than men because a woman's urethra is shorter than a man's and bacteria may get to the bladder more easily. A woman's urethra is also closer to the anus than a man's.

How UTIs are Spread


Any kind of sex play that brings fecal material into contact with the vagina and urethra. Unprotected anal intercourse is a very high-risk behavior for urinary tract infection. Some women who use the diaphragm are susceptible to frequent UTIs. Adjusting to the bacterial environment caused by having new partners may lead to a bladder infection called "honeymoon cystitis."

Diagnosis


Consult your clinician to confirm diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment


  • Antibiotics
  • Pyridium (over the counter) may relieve symptoms but will not cure the infection.

Protection


To prevent urinary tract infections or discourage them from returning:
  • Drink eight or more glasses of water a day. Avoid soft drinks, which can promote the growth of bacteria.
  • Drink unsweetened cranberry juice.
  • Urinate immediately before and after intercourse.
  • Avoid using any sexual position that seems to trigger UTIs.
  • Keep the pubic area clean and dry.
  • Use condoms or vaginal pouches during vaginal or anal intercourse.
Wipe from front to back after bowel movements to avoid the spread of bacteria to the urethra. Some women who are susceptible to frequent UTIs take antibiotics to prevent infections when they have sexual intercourse.