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Urinary tract infection in women - self-care

UTI - self-care; Cystitis - self-care; Bladder infection - self-care

Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and travel to the bladder.

What to Expect at Home

UTIs can lead to infection. Most often the infection occurs in the bladder itself. At times, the infection can spread to the kidneys.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bad urine odor
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Hard to empty your bladder all the way
  • Strong need to empty your bladder

These symptoms should improve soon after you begin taking antibiotics.

If you are feeling ill, have a low-grade fever, or some pain in your lower back, these symptoms will take 1 to 2 days to improve, and up to 1 week to go away completely.

Taking Your Medicines

You will be given antibiotics to be taken by mouth at home.

  • You may need to take antibiotics for only 3 days, or for up to 7 to 14 days.
  • You should take all of the antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you do not finish all of your antibiotics, the infection could return and may be harder to treat.

Antibiotics may rarely cause side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Report these to your health care provide. DO NOT just stop taking the pills.

Make sure your provider knows if you could be pregnant before starting the antibiotics.

Your provider may also give you a drug to relieve the burning pain and urgent need to urinate.

  • Your urine will have an orange or red color to it when you are taking this drug.
  • You will still need to take antibiotics.

Preventing Future Urinary Tract Infections

BATHING AND HYGIENE

To prevent future urinary tract infections, you should:

  • Choose sanitary pads instead of tampons, which some doctors believe make infections more likely. Change your pad each time you use the bathroom.
  • DO NOT douche or use feminine hygiene sprays or powders. As a general rule, DO NOT use any product containing perfumes in the genital area.
  • Take showers instead of baths. Avoid bath oils.
  • Keep your genital area clean. Clean your genital and anal areas before and after sexual activity.
  • Urinate before and after sexual activity. Drinking 2 glasses of water after sexual activity may help promote urination.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid tight-fitting pants. Wear cotton-cloth underwear and pantyhose, and change both at least once a day.

DIET

The following improvements to your diet may prevent future urinary tract infections:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, 2 to 4 quarts (2 to 4 liters) each day.
  • DO NOT drink fluids that irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and caffeine.

RECURRING INFECTIONS

Some women have repeated bladder infections. Your provider may suggest that you:

  • Use vaginal estrogen cream if you have dryness caused by menopause.
  • Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact.
  • Take a cranberry supplement pill after sexual contact.
  • Have a 3-day course of antibiotics at home to use if you develop an infection.
  • Take a single, daily dose of an antibiotic to prevent infections.

Follow-up

See your health care provider after you finish taking antibiotics to make sure that the infection is gone.

If you do not improve or you are having problems with your treatment, talk to your provider sooner.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your provider right away if the following symptoms develop (these may be signs of a possible kidney infection.):

  • Back or side pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Also call if UTI symptoms come back shortly after you have been treated with antibiotics.

References

Fayssoux K. Bacterial infections of the urinary tract in women. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier 2019:1101-1103.

Gupta K, Hooton TM, Naber KG, et al. International clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of acute uncomplicated cystitis and pyelonephritis in women: A 2010 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the European Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Clin Infect Dis. 2011;52(5):e103-e120. PMID: 21292654 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21292654.

Nicolle LE, Norrby SR. Approach to the patient with urinary tract infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 284.

Sobel JD, Kaye D. Urinary tract infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 74.

    • Urinary tract infection - adults

      Animation

    •  

      Urinary tract infection - adults - Animation

      Using the bathroom is usually a no-brainer. You go, you flush, you wash. But sometimes, you can have a condition that makes it painful or difficult to go. If you're feeling pain or burning when you urinate, or you feel like you need to go all the time, the problem could be a urinary tract infection. Most often, you get a urinary tract infections when bacteria make their way into your bladder, kidneys, ureters, those tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, or the urethra, the tube that carries urine to the outside of your body. Unfortunately for women, they're more likely to get a urinary tract infection than men because they have a much shorter urethra. Bacteria can more easily slip into a woman's body after they have sex or use the bathroom. Certain conditions can also increase your risk of a urinary tract infection, including diabetes, pregnancy, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate in men, as well as urinary tract surgery. You can often tell you may have a urinary tract infection by the pain and burning whenever you urinate, and the constant urge to go. Your urine may look cloudy or bloody, and it might give off a bad smell. Your doctor can diagnose an infection by taking a urine sample and checking for bacteria. Occasionally different scans, including a CT and kidney scan, may be done to rule out other urinary problems. If you do have a urinary tract infection, you'll probably be prescribed antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria. Also drink a lot of water and other fluids to help flush out the bacteria. Usually, antibiotics can knock out a urinary tract infection in a day or two. But like the unwelcome visitors they are, sometimes these infections keep coming back. You may need to keep taking antibiotics for a longer period of time. There are ways to help prevent getting urinary tract infections, like drinking a lot of fluids, perhaps including cranberry juice. Probiotics, beneficial bacteria may also help prevent urinary tract infections. Women should be careful about their hygiene. Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom, urinate before and after sexual activity, and keep your genital area clean. If you use a diaphragm with spermicide, consider changing contraceptives. For post menopausal women, topical estrogen greatly reduces urinary tract infections. Recurrent, uncomplicated urinary tract infections are very common in non pregnant, healthy young women. Thankfully, they are easy to treat and are unlikely to lead to other health problems.

    • Urinary tract infection - adults

      Animation

    •  

      Urinary tract infection - adults - Animation

      Using the bathroom is usually a no-brainer. You go, you flush, you wash. But sometimes, you can have a condition that makes it painful or difficult to go. If you're feeling pain or burning when you urinate, or you feel like you need to go all the time, the problem could be a urinary tract infection. Most often, you get a urinary tract infections when bacteria make their way into your bladder, kidneys, ureters, those tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, or the urethra, the tube that carries urine to the outside of your body. Unfortunately for women, they're more likely to get a urinary tract infection than men because they have a much shorter urethra. Bacteria can more easily slip into a woman's body after they have sex or use the bathroom. Certain conditions can also increase your risk of a urinary tract infection, including diabetes, pregnancy, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate in men, as well as urinary tract surgery. You can often tell you may have a urinary tract infection by the pain and burning whenever you urinate, and the constant urge to go. Your urine may look cloudy or bloody, and it might give off a bad smell. Your doctor can diagnose an infection by taking a urine sample and checking for bacteria. Occasionally different scans, including a CT and kidney scan, may be done to rule out other urinary problems. If you do have a urinary tract infection, you'll probably be prescribed antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria. Also drink a lot of water and other fluids to help flush out the bacteria. Usually, antibiotics can knock out a urinary tract infection in a day or two. But like the unwelcome visitors they are, sometimes these infections keep coming back. You may need to keep taking antibiotics for a longer period of time. There are ways to help prevent getting urinary tract infections, like drinking a lot of fluids, perhaps including cranberry juice. Probiotics, beneficial bacteria may also help prevent urinary tract infections. Women should be careful about their hygiene. Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom, urinate before and after sexual activity, and keep your genital area clean. If you use a diaphragm with spermicide, consider changing contraceptives. For post menopausal women, topical estrogen greatly reduces urinary tract infections. Recurrent, uncomplicated urinary tract infections are very common in non pregnant, healthy young women. Thankfully, they are easy to treat and are unlikely to lead to other health problems.

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      Review Date: 3/28/2019

      Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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