There’s a good chance you’ve already had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). One woman in five develops a UTI, and lots of us have several infections during our lifetime. In fact, UTIs account for over eight million doctor visits each year. Although most attacks aren’t serious, they can certainly be a nuisance and if left untreated can lead to more worrisome kidney infections. Usually a course of antibiotics cures the condition, but now a new study points to a different treatment.
Symptoms of a UTI are unpleasant and hard to miss. They include a strong urge to urinate that can’t be delayed, which is followed by a sharp pain or burning sensation in the urethra. The urine may be tinged with blood. Along with the urge to urinate, you may feel soreness in your lower abdomen, back, or on your sides.
The findings of the new study are especially good news for women who get recurring infections (about 2 percent to 3 percent of all women) because this group often develops a resistance to antibiotics. The research conducted at the University of Miami is based on the theory that the depletion of vaginal Lactobacillus crispatus, a type of bacteria, is linked with these painful infections. The findings suggest that replenishing the bacteria may be the solution.
In a study of one hundred women with UTIs, researchers treated randomly assigned patients who were resistant to antibiotics with a L. crispatus, a vaginal suppository containing the lactobacillus. The other group received an inactive placebo. Treatment with the probiotic or placebo lasted five straight days and then once a week for 10 weeks.
The researchers found that after treatment seven women who received the treatment had at least one urinary tract infection, compared with 13 of the women who received the placebo. The researchers admit that although these results are promising, they are not powerful enough to provide a definitive conclusion. The findings were reported in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
When it comes to UTIs the best advice is to try and prevent it from happening:
• Always wipe from front to back, and wash the skin around and between the rectum and vagina daily. Washing before and after sexual intercourse also may decrease risk.
• Drink plenty of fluids (water) each day to help flush bacterium out of the urinary system.
• Emptying the bladder as soon as the urge to urinate occurs also may help decrease the risk of an UTI.
• Urinating before and after sex can flush out any bacteria that may enter the urethra during sexual intercourse.
• Vitamin C makes the urine acidic and may help to reduce the number of potentially harmful bacteria in the urinary tract system.
• Wear panties with a cotton crotch, which allows moisture to escape. Other materials can trap moisture and create a potential breeding ground for bacteria.
• Cranberry juice is often said to reduce frequency of infections, though it should not be considered an actual treatment. Cranberry supplements are available over-the-counter and many women find they work when an UTI has occurred; however, a physician's diagnosis is still necessary even if cranberry juice reduce pain or symptoms.
• If you experience frequent urinary tract infections, it may help to change to sexual positions that cause less friction on the urethra. Some physicians prescribe an antibiotic to be taken immediately following sex for women who tend to have frequent UTIs.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s medical reporter. Check for her daily updates.
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