Urinary tract infections are one of the most common phenomena in women, young children and men. Despite its high frequency, there are many legends concerning prevention and treatment.
Dr. Ronen Rob, urologist and director of the HYMC Sexual Function Disorder Clinic, and Dr. Shmuel Anderman, gynecologist and director of the Gynecological Endoscopic Unit in HYMC, provide some basics on UTI's and refer to the verification of "urban legends".
What is a UTI and what are its causes?
UTI's are more common amongst young women, but can appear in older women as well, however, for different reasons. The infection is characterized by a burning sensation, a feeling of necessity to urinate often, or a feeling of incomfort and lower abdominal pain. The causes can be:
In young women – the infection appears during the stage when they begin to have sexual relations (also known as "Honeymoon Infection"), or when they switch sexual partners.
In older women – the infection may appear during and following menopause due to the fact that a woman's ovaries have ended their function and estrogen is no longer secreted. The vagina's membrane and the lower urinary tract lose their customary texture, causing dryness, which allows an increase in UTI's.
Treatment is different in both cases.
How does the infection occur?
In young women, UTI's are caused by the rubbing of the female urethra on her partner's body or genitalia, allowing penetration of bacteria from the skin or the rectum area into the urethra and from there to the bladder. Other UTI's are caused by an anatomical reason, or as a result of a reflux problem, therefore it is recommended to consult a physician before starting treatment.
What is the treatment for UTI's?
After receiving urine test results, specific antibiotics are provided, but if the UTI's are recurrent (usually following sexual intercourse) a physician may recommend taking one antibiotic pill after intercourse for a period of a few months. Very often, this will pass.
Amongst older women, more often when UTI's are recurrent, treatment includes applying an estrogen ointment for a period of a few weeks to renew the vaginal and urethra tissues. This can only be decided by a physician.
Urban legends – what's true and what's false?
UTI's are contagious
This type of if infection is not considered a sexual disease, therefore, it is not contagious; sexual partners cannot be infected from each other or by sitting on the toilet following someone with a UTI.
Sitting on a cold floor causes UTI's
Sitting on a cold floor has not been proved a cause for UTI's.
Once contracted, a UTI will recur over and over again
Many times women are wrong in thinking the UTI has recurred, but it just may be a different problem. For this reason, we recommend consulting a physician.
Cranberry pills can prevent UTI's
Cranberry juice also holds an advantage, however, the pills are inexpensive and easy to use.
When a UTI recurs, one may take the previous given antibiotics
Antibiotics should not be taken independently, even if UTI's are recurrent. It is always recommended to consult a physician, because the symptoms may be similar, but the infection maybe caused by another source. Taking the wrong antibiotic may cause harm.
Drinking large amounts may help women with recurrent UTI's
Frequent drinking is important for those who actually suffer from UTI's, and helps to prevent further bouts from those who have had UTI's in the past.
Urinating following sexual intercourse may help prevent UTI's
This has not been conclusively proved as a UTI preventing factor.
During treatment it is advised not to engage in sexual intercourse
The reason for this is to allow the area to properly heal.
Pro-biotic products may promote the healing process
This has yet to be scientifically proved, however products that contain pro-biotic bacteria, such as yogurt, are known to have a positive effect on the healing process and infection prevention.