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Dr. Elizabeth Lucas, St. Luke's Urgent Care

Women need timely treatment for UTIs

For anyone who has ever had a urinary tract infection, that first twinge of pain with urination is unmistakable. Although a urinary tract infection can go by several different names - UTI, bladder infection or cystitis - the symptoms almost always include urinary urgency, frequency, pain and occasional blood in the urine. And due to basic anatomy, women are more commonly affected than men.

Several over-the-counter products such as AZO and URISTAT can help alleviate immediate discomfort. However, these medications are only temporary fixes. The key to rapid diagnosis and treatment of a UTI is to be examined by a physician and have your urine tested for signs of infection.

If evidence of an infection is found, the physician will send the urine for "culture," which will show the specific bacteria growing and help determine which antibiotics will work best. Once the appropriate antibiotics are started, symptoms typically almost completely resolve within the first 24 hours. Unfortunately, if left untreated, a simple UTI can develop into a kidney infection that could require hospitalization.

However, by following several simple rules, most UTIs can be avoided:
  1. Stay hydrated and urinate routinely - this will help to continually empty out the bladder and minimize the time that bacteria can grow in the urine.
  2. Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom - this will make sure that there is no contamination of the urinary tract with stool.
  3. Wear cotton underwear - synthetic materials increase moisture in the genital area which increases the opportunity for bacteria to grow.
  4. Avoid anything that can cause genital irritation - strong soaps, bubble baths, perfumes, etc. can cause local irritation which can also increase the risk for bacterial growth.
  5. Urinate after sexual intercourse - this will again help flush out any unwanted bacteria that might have made its way into the bladder.
If you are unable to prevent a UTI, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible, either through your primary care physician or an urgent care center with lab services.

Dr. Elizabeth Lucas is the medical director of St. Luke's Urgent Care. Call 636-256-4941 or visit the St. Luke's Urgent Care page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 7, 2011.