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Urinary Infection Symptoms: 6 Things to Know

A relentless need to pee accompanied by a stinging sensation with every bathroom visit -- urinary infection symptoms are hard to ignore. When bacteria gets into your urinary system and grows unchecked, it can cause pain and discomfort. If left untreated, those germs can travel to your kidneys, leading to a more serious kidney infection.

Unfortunately, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common infections, resulting in more than 10 million visits to the doctor each year. But while urinary infection symptoms can be a nuisance, they're fairly easy to treat. Here are six things that you should know about UTIs and their treatment.

1. Women Are More Likely to Get a UTI

Thanks to a woman's anatomy, this is sad but true. Women have shorter urethrae, the opening that carries urine out of the body, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel up to the bladder. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 40 to 60 percent of women will experience a UTI during their lifetime and one in four will have a repeat infection, and the risk of infection increases after menopause.

While women are more likely to get a urinary infection, men can also experience pain and discomfort down there. In men, UTIs are often caused by something that restricts the flow of urine, like an enlarged prostate or kidney stone.

2. UTIs Aren't Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Urinary infections are more common in sexually active individuals, but they aren't sexually transmitted diseases. The physical act of sex jostles the bacteria near the vagina, bringing it in contact with your urethra. This is why it's recommended to urinate before and after having sex.

3. Confirm a Suspected UTI With Your Health Care Provider

If you experience urinary infection symptoms -- a constant and urgent need to go to the bathroom, a dull ache or cramping in the pelvic region, a burning sensation when you pee, or cloudy or discolored urine -- see your health care provider. They can properly diagnose a UTI, as symptoms can overlap with other conditions such as yeast infections. This is especially important if you're pregnant. UTIs can cause complications during pregnancy, so it's best to consult your physician immediately.

4. Complete a Prescribed Antibiotic Course

If you don't, the bacterial infection may not completely clear, and you may be more likely to experience another UTI. Plus, it may increase the risk of bacterial resistance to antibiotic treatment, which means you'll have a harder time fighting off another infection.

5. Go to the Bathroom Regularly

When you urinate regularly, you flush out any bacteria that may be present in your bladder. If you hold your pee, it creates the conditions that allow bacteria to grow to unhealthy levels.

6. Fluids Can Help, and Not Just Cranberry Juice

Whether you have a UTI or not, it's a good idea to drink plenty of fluids because it helps flush out bacteria from your bladder. When you do have an active UTI, the extra fluid dilutes your urine, minimizing the burning sensation when you pee. And while you've likely heard the old wive's tale, the jury's out on whether cranberry juice can actually prevent or treat UTIs.

Knowing what to look for and how to treat a urinary tract infection can help you seek medical care in a timely manner and prevent it from becoming a more serious condition. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

Posted in Personal Health

Christine is a freelance writer, specializing in health, fitness and science topics and has written for publications including Outside, espnW, Family Circle, and Men's Journal. She lives in New York City with her husband and two kids.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.