- More than 50% of all women will experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime, and many of those will encounter them on a recurring basis.
- A UTI can occur anywhere along the urinary tract, but they most commonly occur in the bladder or urethra, which are the two lowest points in the urinary tract. Because the female urinary tract is shorter than the male tract, it’s easier for harmful bacteria such as E. coli to travel up to the bladder and cause an infection.
- UTIs are commonly treated with antibiotics. Home remedies such as drinking cranberry juice or probiotics may also help prevent UTIs.
Table of Contents
- How Many Women Get Urinary Tract Infections?
- What is a UTI?
- What Causes a UTI in Women?
- What Are The Different Types of UTIs?
- How Are UTIs Treated?
- Common Risk Factors for UTIs
- Tips To Prevent UTIs at Home
- When Should I See a Doctor for a UTI?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem for women; in fact, more than 50% of all women will experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime, and many of those will encounter them on a recurring basis. (1)
UTIs aren’t the same for every person. Some people may experience extreme discomfort or even incontinence, while others might not even know they have one! Additionally, some people are more likely to get UTIs than others based on their anatomy and lifestyle.
If you’re dealing with persistent UTIs, you probably want to know what’s causing them and how to prevent infections in the future. Untreated UTIs can lead to bladder infections, kidney infections, or even sepsis, so it’s important to understand what they are and what to do if you think you have one.
How Many Women Get Urinary Tract Infections?
Many women feel embarrassed or ashamed when they experience urinary or vaginal health issues because of the stigma and lack of awareness around women’s health issues, but UTIs are actually incredibly common. In fact, UTIs are the second most common type of infectious disease in the body after respiratory infections! (2)
Recent studies estimate UTIs account for more than 8 million doctor visits each year in the U.S. and over 150 million worldwide. (3) Of those, 85% of people seeking treatment for UTIs are women. That’s because the female urinary tract is shorter than the male tract, making it easier for harmful bacteria such as E. coli to travel up to the bladder and cause an infection.
UTIs can occur at any age, but they are most common in women aged 20 to 50 because sexual intercourse can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract. (4)
UTIs happen to millions of people worldwide; however, we should never see urinary tract infections, or any infections, as “normal” simply because they occur to many people, since our immune systems are built to fight off many types of infections. UTIs are an abnormal condition which can cause serious health consequences if not treated properly. While changes in lifestyle and hygienic habits can help minimize their occurrence, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider if you think you have a UTI.
What is a UTI?
To really understand UTIs, we need to get to know the urinary tract. The urinary tract is what carries urine from your kidneys, to your bladder, and ultimately out of your body. It’s a complex system made up of multiple organs, including the urethra, ureters, kidneys, and bladder. Each of these organs has a specific role in filtering waste from the body.
The kidneys are located on the backside of the lower abdomen and are responsible for removing the waste products that you ultimately pee out. This waste includes excess water, salt, potassium, and anything your blood filters out. The collection of waste is what creates urine.
The ureters are the channels that transport the urine out of the kidneys and into the bladder.
The bladder is responsible for holding the urine until it’s time to excrete it.
Lastly, there’s the urethra, where urine finally exits the body. Women have shorter urethras than men, which is one reason why women are at higher risk of UTIs than men.
A UTI begins when harmful bacteria, also known as pathogens, enter the urinary tract through the urethra, latch on to the walls of the urinary tract, and then multiply.
A UTI can occur anywhere along the urinary tract, but they most commonly occur in the bladder or urethra, which are the two lowest points in the urinary tract. (5) Depending on which organs are infected, various symptoms can occur. Some of the most common symptoms of a UTI include:
- A strong urge to urinate
- Burning sensation during urination
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Pelvic pain or lower back pain (especially in women and older adults)
- Fever or chills (in severe cases)
Although related to the urinary system, kidney stones and enlarged prostates are not common symptoms of UTIs.
What Causes a UTI in Women?
So as we mentioned before, a UTI occurs when bacteria enters the urinary system via the urethra and multiplies within one of the organs of the urinary system.
If untreated, a UTI could develop into a severe infection like this:
- The urethra becomes contaminated by a pathogen like Escherichia Coli (E. coli). This contamination can occur due to sexual intercourse, dirty underwear, or incorrect wiping (yes, you can wipe incorrectly!).
- The bacterial microorganism moves up towards the bladder, causing inflammation and damage. If left untreated, it can cause chronic bladder infections.
- Remember those channels we mentioned earlier, the ureters? The pathogen will swim its way up the ureters to the kidneys, where it can cause a kidney infection known as pyelonephritis.
- Once the pathogen has colonized the entire urinary tract, it can cause acute damage to the whole system, resulting in kidney failure, sepsis, or even death in some severe cases. (6)
E. coli isn’t the only bacteria that can cause UTIs. Many other bacteria can cause UTIs, including Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Proteus mirabilis, and Klebsiella pneumonia. (7) Knowing which bacteria is causing your infection can help you to get better treatment. Your primary health care practitioner can determine which bacteria is infecting you to help you feel better fast.
What Are The Different Types of UTIs?
There are three major types of UTIs:
Interstitial cystitis is the most common type of UTI. It occurs when bacteria reach the bladder and cause an infection. Symptoms of cystitis include urinary frequency, urgency, and pelvic pain. Preventing cystitis is relatively straightforward and can be done with minor lifestyle changes.
Urethritis occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and infect the urethra. Symptoms of urethritis include burning during urination and unusual discharge.
Pyelonephritis is a more severe type of UTI that occurs when bacteria travel from the bladder to the kidneys and cause an infection. Symptoms of pyelonephritis include fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Kidney infections are the most severe type of UTI.
How Are UTIs Treated?
UTIs are commonly treated with antibiotics. If you’re prescribed antibiotics to treat a UTI, it is vital to finish the entire course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better after a few days, to ensure that all the bad bacteria are destroyed. If you stop taking the antibiotics too early, the antibiotics may not kill all the bacteria, and the infection could come back. Additionally, some bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics if the antibiotic course is not fully completed.
Home remedies such as drinking cranberry juice or probiotics may also help prevent UTIs. However, these home remedies are not scientifically proven to treat UTIs once they’ve already occurred, and they should not be used in place of antibiotics.
D-Mannose and Cranberry for UTIs
One of our missions at Happy V is to develop products backed by science that address the symptoms caused by UTIs. Our research led us to develop products containing cranberry and D-mannose for UTIs.
Our cranberry pills for vaginal health work great for UTIs. They’re made with 500mg of Pacran, a clinically proven cranberry blend, and the world’s only patented D-mannose, Uclear. A clinical study involving 180 women showed a 40% reduction in recurring UTIs thanks to Pacran.
We also offer cranberry gummies for UTIs. This product was developed to help people with chronic UTIs. If you are prone to constant UTIs (2–3 in a one-year timeframe), cranberry gummies would be a great addition to your nutritional plan.
Our D-mannose cranberry powder was developed for those who do not have chronic UTIs but are prone to UTIs at certain times in their life (due to sexual or non-sexual activities)
Common Risk Factors for UTIs
It’s impossible to entirely prevent UTIs from occurring, but some risk factors increase the odds of urinary tract infections in adults. (8)
- Women going through menopause and postmenopausal women are at an increased risk of developing a UTI due to a decrease in estrogen that occurs during these periods.
- Pregnant women are more likely to develop UTIs because their growing uterus can push on the bladder, making it more difficult to empty it effectively.
- Women who are sexually active are at an increased likelihood of developing a UTI, since sex increases the chances that bacteria can be introduced to the urinary tract.
- Some types of birth control can increase your risk of developing a UTI, particularly diaphragms and spermicidal sprays.
- People using a urinary catheter to urinate, like people in the hospital, are more likely to get a UTI.
Tips To Prevent UTIs at Home
If you’re looking to prevent UTIs from occurring, keep these simple lifestyle habits in mind:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking plenty of water will help flush unwanted bacteria out of your urinary system.
- Empty your bladder! Make sure to urinate frequently; using the bathroom also helps to flush the bacteria out of your urinary system. If you feel the need to use the bathroom, use it; don’t wait!
- Take D-mannose and cranberry supplements. Taking clinically proven supplements may help prevent UTIs by preventing the bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls and flushing them out more effectively.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing. Tight-fitting clothing can irritate the urinary tract and increase the risk of infection.
- Wipe properly. Wiping from front to back after using the toilet will help prevent bacteria from spreading from the anus to the urinary tract. Wiping from your rectum to your genital area is a risk, because bacteria from your anus can easily enter the urinary tract. When it comes to sexual activity, know that spermicide, birth control, diaphragms, and contraceptives do not lower the risk of UTIs.
- Don’t douche! Avoid douches—they can cause a reduction in good bacteria that help fight off infection of the vagina and urinary tract.
When Should I See a Doctor for a UTI?
If you think you have a UTI or are experiencing recurrent UTIs, see a doctor or gynecologist to get started on antibiotic treatment. Your primary doctor will do several tests, including measuring your white blood cells and taking a urine sample, to determine what could be going on. UTIs can become serious and lead to kidney damage if they are left untreated, so it’s important to see your doctor immediately if you think you’re infected.
If you’re one of the many women who experience recurrent UTIs, meaning you have more than two UTIs in six months or 3 in one year, you should see a doctor.