Guest post by one of GirlSpring’s trusted advisors, Urologist Rupa Kitchens, M.D
Help! Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? Could It Be a UTI?
It might be.
UTI stands for urinary tract infection. The urinary tract includes the 2 kidneys that make the urine, and the bladder, where urine is stored until you are ready to void or urinate. Unfortunately, many teenagers and young women are prone to UTIs because of our female anatomy. Our urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the bladder) is only about 2-3 centimeters long, so there is not a lot of distance between the outside world and the bladder. Also the rectum and vagina are close by, so if there is bacteria in either of those places, it is not hard for bacteria to travel and end up inside your bladder! The pathogenic or “really bad” bacteria have special pili, or “legs,” that are even more aggressive and help them move up the kidneys. That is when you can get a kidney infection or pyelonephritis. People who have this tend to have back pain, nausea, vomiting, high fever and sometimes have to be hospitalized for IV antibiotics. It could take 2-3 weeks to get over, so it is more serious than a bladder infection, where the usual symptoms are burning or pain with urination, frequency of urination day and night, urgency to urinate, lower abdominal pain and even blood in the urine. If you have any of these symptoms, it is recommended to see your pediatrician, gynecologist or primary care doctor and have them check the urine.
A urinalysis is a quick test done in the office which can help the doctor guess what might be going on. Antibiotics might be given, and the a urine culture should be sent which takes a few days. This allows bacteria, if present, to grow and be isolated in the lab. When the doctor gets the culture back they will see if there was bacteria, and what antibiotics would work with that bacteria. Not all antibiotics work and this is becoming a significant issue in our society, due to overuse of antibiotics.
Most likely you will get a UTI in your lifetime. However some people are more prone to them because of genetics, sexual activity, or bad hygiene and habits. Many girls start getting UTIs when they become sexually active.
There are some simple ways to prevent UTIs:
- Urinate every 3-4 hours even if you feel you do not have to urinate. This keeps the bladder empty and flushes any bacteria out. This is called timed voiding.
- When you think you are done urinating, stay on the toilet an extra 10-15 seconds, and try to urinate again. This is called double voiding. This ensures the bladder is empty.
- Avoid bladder irritants like caffeine, carbonation, citrus drinks, chocolate, cigarettes, drinks with red dye, alcohol, spicy food. These do not cause infections, but can cause the same symptoms as an infection, so it could be a false alarm for a UTI.
- Avoid tub baths and bubble baths.
- Urinate before and after sexual activity.
- If sexually active, avoid lubricants that have spermicide in them.
- Avoid vaginal douching.
- Avoid tampons.
- Cranberry juice or tablets can aid in prevention of some bacteria.
If you think you might have a UTI, PLEASE see a doctor for effective treatment. Only a urinalysis can confirm your condition, whether it is a UTI or something else.