Dr. K, I was recently diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. I am 58 and have never had one before, but my girlfriend has them all the time. I was prescribed antibiotics and told to drink cranberry juice. Why don’t men get urinary tract infections and does cranberry juice really work? -Betty, Desert Hot Springs
Betty, urinary tract infections are very common conditions that are treated by primary care physicians, emergency rooms and urgent cares. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by germs, usually bacteria that enter the urethra (the tube that connects the outside of your body to your bladder) and then the bladder. This can lead to infection, most commonly in the bladder itself, which can spread to the kidneys.
Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk of having UTIs.
Women tend to get them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity. Menopause also increases the risk of a UTI.
The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:
Problems emptying your bladder
Use of a urinary catheter
Surgery or other procedure involving the urinary tract
The symptoms of a bladder infection include:
Cloudy or bloody urine, which may have a foul or strong odor
Low fever (not everyone will have a fever)
Pain or burning with urination
Pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen (usually middle) or back
Strong need to urinate often, even right after the bladder has been emptied
If the infection spreads to your kidneys, symptoms may include:
Chills and shaking or night sweats
Fatigue and a general ill feeling
Fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
Side, back, or groin pain
Flushed, warm, or reddened skin
Mental changes or confusion (in the elderly, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI)
Nausea and vomiting
Antibiotics are generally required to treat UTIs and cranberry juice is beneficial. Scientists report that within eight hours of drinking cranberry juice, the juice could help prevent bacteria from developing into an infection in the urinary tract.
Previous studies have suggested that the active compounds in cranberry juice are not destroyed by the digestive system after people drink them, but instead work to fight against bacteria. The cranberry juice prevented the bacteria in the urinary tract from sticking to each other, thus preventing the bacteria to grow and multiply.
To help prevent urinary tract infections, drink plenty of water, urinate immediately after sexual activity and drink cranberry juice. Don’t delay in seeing your physician if symptoms persist because serious kidney infections can develop. If left untreated, hospitalization may be needed.