Infections in the urinary tract, or UTIs, are much more common in women. Up to 80% will get at least one, and 20 to 30 % of those suffer recurrent bouts.
“At any one time in the world, two percent of the female population will have a urinary tract infection. It’s very prominent. At the best it’s an annoyance, at the worst it could cause serious illness,” says Dr. Mark Mintz, urologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Treated by antibiotics, UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections in this country, leading to millions of doctor visits each year. A subset of those patients will be frequent visitors and face additional issues.
“There are a lot of medications available that will treat urinary tract infections. It becomes an issue when you’ve had them for over years and years, if you keep chronic urinary tract infections they’ll start to do damage to the bladder,” says Dr. Mintz.
Along with continual use of antibiotics there are concerns about the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. So people with chronic problems may undergo a different course of action.
“We actually put them on a suppressant, what we call a low dose antibiotic or what we call an antimicrobial, something to kill the bacteria but not necessarily a heavy antibiotic,” says Dr. Mintz.
The best defense a good offense. Experts recommend: drink plenty of water to flush out bacteria. Don’t ‘hold in’ urine because infection causing bacteria can grow in urine. And for women: urinate after sex, it flushes bacteria that may have entered the tract during intercourse. Many people swear by cranberry juice to prevent of avoid medication, but doctors aren’t convinced.
“I think you’d need a lot of cranberry juice, cranberry pills. So the best thing to do is just treat it,” says Dr. Mintz.