What Are Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and How Can You Treat Them?

Learn why some women tend to get UTI’s and how to help prevent and treat them.

Sanaz Majd, MD,
March 3, 2011

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What Doesn’t Cause UTIs?

Despite popular belief, there is no good evidence that suggests that the avoiding tight undergarments, wiping front to back after using the bathroom, staying away from douching, and peeing pre- and post-intercourse prevents UTIs.  In general, however, I don’t think it would hurt to make those behavioral changes, and I still recommend them to my patients. 

How Are UTIs Diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely want to test your urine if you experience any UTI symptoms.  There are two different types of urine testing that they will likely order; one is a rough estimate of whether or not you have a UTI, called a “Urinary Analysis” screen.  This is not a perfect test, it’s but good enough to use in conjunction with your symptoms to decide whether or not you would need to be treated for a UTI.

The second test, called the “Urine Culture,” is the main UTI test. It reports exactly what type of bacteria may be growing in your urine, and what antibiotics the bacteria are sensitive to.  The downside is that this culture may actually take up to one week to “grow” anything out.  Most doctors don’t wait for this culture, and may just treat you based on your urine analysis and symptoms until your culture results are back.

How Are UTIs Treated?

If your doctor thinks you may have a UTI, you may be prescribed an antibiotic to take for three to seven days.  If the bacteria have traveled long enough to reach the kidneys, you may be given a longer course.  If the urine culture results indicate the bacteria that’s growing is resistant to the antibiotic you are prescribed, your doctor may call you to switch antibiotics.  Don’t be surprised if this happens; your doctor is not a fortunate teller and really needs the results of that culture to know what organism is causing your symptoms.

Although there is no clear evidence, consuming 150 to 750 mL of cranberry juice daily may possibly help with prevention of UTIs.