UTIs, or urinary tract infections, represent an incredibly common range of infections, but, in spite of their prevalence, there remain plenty of unhelpful and damaging myths over them.
The term UTI refers to any infection that takes hold within the urinary tract due to the presence of the bacterium E. coli. They can lead to a range of persistent symptoms such as pain or a burning sensation during urination, discoloured, cloudy or malodorous urine, the frequent sensation to go to the toilet, pain in the lower tummy, and a general feeling of malaise or fatigue as the body struggles to fight the infection.
Anyone can contract a urinary tract infection at any point in their life. As a result, it is incredibly important that you are armed with facts, rather than fiction, about this condition so that you understand how to prevent and treat it in the future. Read more about the most common UTI myths below.
Only Women Get UTIs
While woman represent the bulk of UTI cases, men can and do contract urinary tract infections. They tend to be more serious in men, and require a more aggressive form of treatment to prevent further complications.
For men, a UTI can lead to Non-Specific Urethritis, the symptoms for which are pain, discomfort or irritation when urinating, and discharge from the penis. While chlamydia is the most common cause of NSU, it is not a sexually transmitted infection, and can be caused by a range of different infections. In women, NSU typically presents no symptoms.
Men with NSU will require a Non Specific Urethritis Treatment, in order to treat the infection before it grows more severe. If it is left to take hold, it can spread to the testicles and prostate and cause lasting infertility as a result, which is why it is important to find the right antibiotics as soon as possible.
A UTI is a Sign of Bad Hygiene
Anyone can contract a UTI, and some of us are simply more prone to them than others. In fact, being too zealous in your hygiene practices can increase your risk of contracting a UTI, as harsh soaps and vigorous scrubbing can remove the good bacteria – your first line of defense against infections – from the vagina, or create small cuts that increase your vulnerability to bad bacteria.
While certain habits, like wiping from back to front, should be avoided to ensure that bacteria like E.coli are kept as far from the urinary tract as possible, a suffering from a urinary tract infection should not be taken as a sign that someone has poor hygiene practices – it may, in fact, be the opposite.
A UTI Is a Sexually Transmitted Infection
By now, it is common knowledge that sexual intercourse can increase the risk of urinary tract infections – particularly in women who are prone to them. During sex, bacteria can be pushed toward the urinary tract, and may cause an infection that requires treatment before it goes away.
That said, UTIs are never classed as sexually transmitted infections. They are not contagious, and will not be passed between partners during sex. Condoms can reduce the risk of bacteria entering into the urinary tract, but UTIs can still happen.
You Can Treat a UTI with Cranberry Juice
For many years, the misconception that cranberry juice treats UTIs has prevailed, but there is little evidence to support this notion.
If it holds any grounding, the efficacy of cranberry juice lies in prevention, rather than treatment. A certain ingredient found in cranberries and cranberry supplements is purported to prevent bacteria from fixing itself to the walls of the urinary tract – which is generally considered useless if you already have an infection. The findings on this subject are mixed, but this study found no real benefit to using cranberry juice as a preventative for UTIs.
Contracting a UTI – particularly if it is a common occurrence for you – can be distressing. It is important to remember, however, that we are all vulnerable to these infections, and that seeking treatment is important not only for our comfort and peace of mind, but also in preventing further complications such as kidney infections and nonspecific urethritis.
While there are steps to take against further issues with UTIs, such as urinating after sex and modifying our hygiene habits to ensure the area is kept healthy with beneficial bacteria, they remain common, and should be dealt with in the same way we would treat any other infection within the body.