Urinary tract infections may be common among women, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the symptoms in hopes the condition goes away on its own.
Dr. Annaceci Peacher, a urogynecologist at Tidelands Health Women’s Center, says it’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you might have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your physician or other qualified care provider can confirm your suspicions and help you find symptom relief as quickly as possible.
“You can’t learn to live with UTIs. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they can cause bigger issues such as kidney damage if not treated properly,” says Dr. Peacher.
A recurring problem
UTIs can be a recurring challenge for some women. Women who have more than three UTIs in a six-month period or four in a year are considered to experience recurrent UTIs, says Dr. Peacher, who has extensive experience treating women with recurrent UTIs.
Here are some important facts to know about UTIs, how they affect your health and ways to reduce your risk of infection.
1. Don't assume it's a UTI
Many conditions can mimic a UTI, Dr. Peacher says, which is one of the reasons it is important to seek medical attention rather than simply take antibiotics or otherwise try to self-treat.
Common symptoms of a UTI include:
- Burning while urinating
- A persistent urge to urinate
- Passing small amounts of urine very frequently
- Cloudy urine
- Red or brownish urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Back or pelvic pain
If you begin to experience symptoms consistent with a UTI, Dr. Peacher says your care provider can rule out other causes and send a sample of your urine to the lab to identify the specific type of bacteria that’s growing in your urinary tract. Through that process, your provider can prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic for you and the specific bacteria involved.
2. UTIs may increase cancer risk
Recurrent UTIs that go untreated can cause chronic inflammation of the bladder. Over the long term, that inflammation can injure the bladder, putting you at increased risk for developing bladder cancer, Dr. Peacher says.
“If you don’t treat the chronic inflammation, the tissue can start to become abnormal,” she says.
3. Kidney stones and UTIs can be related
Anything that blocks the urinary tract, such as a kidney stone or polyp, can cause a UTI. Additionally, people who suffer from recurrent UTIs are at higher risk of developing kidney stones. Some types of bacteria can make urine less acidic and more alkaline. This creates an ideal environment for kidney stone development.
4. A pH imbalance could contribute to UTIs
The vagina is normally quite acidic, but when estrogen levels decline after menopause, it becomes more basic, Dr. Peacher says.
“That’s where you can run into trouble with a bacterial imbalance,” she says.
Over-the-counter female probiotics that contain a high level of lactobacillus can help improve the pH of the vagina. Younger women usually don’t experience UTIs from a pH imbalance because their estrogen levels are higher than post-menopausal women.
5. Cranberry juice doesn't prevent or cure UTIs
Despite anecdotal evidence, Dr. Peacher says there’s little clinical evidence to suggest that cranberry juice prevents or cures UTIs. However, if a patient feels that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills is helpful, Dr. Peacher says it’s fine to continue.
Other types of nutritional supplements are clinically shown to reduce the risk of future UTIs. For example, D-mannose, a natural sugar found in some fruits and vegetables, can help prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
Do you struggle with recurrent UTIs? Make an appointment with Dr. Peacher by calling 843-546-3132.
Dr. Annaceci Peacher
Urogynecologist, Tidelands Health Women's Center
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Dr. Annaceci Peacher is a fellowship-trained urogynecologist who provides care at Tidelands Health Women’s Center.Learn More
- University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
- University of Texas at Austin
- Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Meet the Expert
Dr. Annaceci Peacher
Call to Schedule
Dr. Annaceci Peacher is a fellowship-trained urogynecologist who provides care at Tidelands Health Women’s Center.