Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common bacterial infections plaguing individuals throughout their lives. They can cause mild discomfort to severe pain and side effects for days at a time.
While most UTIs clear up on their own or with treatment, some UTIs are persistent and will return again and again, or never completely go away to begin with. If you experience two or more UTIs within six months or three or more within one year, you are suffering from chronic infections.
Unfortunately, dealing with chronic UTIs can be more difficult than managing the occasional infection. They require more attention and, often, special preventative measures to keep your urinary tract clear.
Urinary tract infections can happen in three distinct areas in the urinary tract: the urethra (urethritis), the bladder (cystitis) and the kidney(s) (pyelonephritis). Untreated infections in the urethra or bladder can spread upwards into the kidneys and cause more serious health problems, which makes chronic UTIs, in particular, such a danger. These infections are more common in women but can still occur in men.
Symptoms of UTIs typically include:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Persistent urge to urinate, often with no urine coming out
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Lower back pain
What causes UTIs?
The bacteria E. coli is the main culprit of UTIs. We all have strains of this bacteria living in our digestive tract, and it can actually do good things for our body unless it moves to areas it shouldn’t be, like the urethra. It is very common for bacteria to spread from the anus to the area near the urethra and cause an infection. Women have very short urethras compared to men, which is why they tend to get UTIs more frequently.
Sexual activity can also spread bacteria to the urethra, leading to common infections. Maintaining clean hands and bodies is a good way to prevent this spread, as well as urinating after sex to flush out any bacteria that may have gotten in.
Chronic or recurring UTIs might be caused by getting re-infected with bacteria after an existing infection is cleared up. You may also suffer from chronic UTIs because your existing infection doesn’t actually go away. Always be sure to finish your complete round of prescribed antibiotics to ensure your infection is completely gone. If you do this but still get chronic UTIs, speak with your doctor to see if there is another underlying problem causing the infections.
How to treat chronic UTIs
If you suffer from frequent UTIs, it can be a pain to visit the doctor every few weeks and get prescribed yet another round of antibiotics to regulate your system. Not only is this time-consuming, but antibiotics can be extremely harsh on your system in these high doses, removing good bacteria as well as bad and leading to digestive and immunity problems.
However, frequent UTIs caused by bacterial imbalances in the body may require a consistent low dose of antibiotics to treat infections long-term. Speak with your doctor about this option and see if they think it’s a good plan for you.
Additionally, there are a few more natural ways to prevent recurring UTIs. These will need to be incorporated into your daily routine as a proactive, not reactive, approach to infection.
- Drink lots of water: Staying hydrated every day can help prevent infections by making you pee regularly. This frequent urination flushes out your urinary tract and helps stop bacteria from growing in abundance, especially in your bladder.
- Take a diuretic: Diuretics help promote fluid waste removal and prevent fluid retention in the body. If fluid retention is something you struggle with, using a diuretic can help keep things flushed out and clean.
- Rely on cranberry: There’s an old wives’ tale that suggests drinking cranberry juice can help stop UTIs. While cranberry juice won’t cure your infections, eating or drinking pure cranberry can help prevent them from occurring. Pure cranberry can help make bacteria less sticky, meaning it won’t adhere to the sides of your urinary tract as easily, reducing your risk of getting an infection.
- Maintain good hygiene: Since many UTIs are caused by the spread of bacteria from the rectum to the urethra, make sure to practice proper wiping habits when using the bathroom. Additionally, remember to wash your hands before engaging in sexual activity and urinate after having vaginal intercourse.
You shouldn’t have to suffer from chronic UTIs and their uncomfortable symptoms. Practice good hygiene and stay hydrated to minimize the risk for UTI recurrence and speak with your doctor if you believe another health issue is to blame for persistent bacterial infections.