What is cystitis/UTI?
Urinary tract infections are just what they sound like: an infection in your urinary tract, otherwise known as your urethra. (Technically, it means there are over 100,000 bacteria per millilitre of urine.) A urinary tract infection can spread to the bladder, where it is called cystitis.
70-95 per cent of UTIs are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli). The rest are caused by Staphylococcus saprophyticus, with some other organisms responsible for a handful of cases. The E. coli comes from the rectum.
Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection.
It burns! It burns! It will feel like your tubes are on fire when you urinate, and you will feel like you need to go, but then you go and nothing much comes out. Oh, and it hurts. You may also have cloudy urine due to increased white blood cell count.
Your flesh: the urethra, the bladder and the kidneys
Your urethra is connected to your bladder, which is then connected to your kidneys by skinny little spaghetti-sized tubes called the ureters. Your kidneys filter your blood, turn wastes into uric acid (the yellow colour), and then water it down to make pee, the same way you make cordial on a hot summer’s day. The pee fills up your bladder which eventually you can feel, and every so often you let it out using your urethra to deliver it outside of your body.
Despite this being a pretty nifty way to get rid of wastes, your urethra can be prone to infections just because it’s close to the outside world, including your anus. Women are 50 times more likely than men to get UTIs for this reason.
UTIs need to be treated as soon as they come up because they can cause damage to your urethra, bladder and kidneys, with infection spreading up the tubes and beyond.
How do I treat it?
If you can arrest the infection in your urethra, great. If you can nab it at the bladder, ok. Don’t let it go so far as to reach your kidneys, because you’re then in real trouble. Antibiotics usually fix UTIs quickly, but they come at a price. It is advisable to get rid of a UTI as quickly as possible so if you are going to treat it yourself with herbs, reflexology or the chin hairs of a unicorn, make sure your treatment strategy is effective and fast.
Antibiotics are fast, but you need to make sure you replace the good bacteria with probiotics, or you risk ending up with worse things than UTIs. (Not possible! you say. Possible.) We have reviewed multiple treatments for UTIs, and have provided our recommendations.
How did I get a UTI?
You don’t ‘catch’ a UTI, but messy sex can put germs from your (or someone else’s) anus into your urethra. This can happen when there are fingers, mouths, sex toys, vaginas and penises slipping and sliding all over the place. It doesn’t mean you’re dirty, or didn’t wash properly; it just means you are susceptible. This is the part that needs addressing, along with your sexual hygiene practices if they are lacking. See the page on good vaginal health for more information on how to stay clean while you are getting dirty.
Stats and facts:
- Women who get UTIs may have had many UTIs as a girl
- You get way more UTIs if you are a sexually active 20 to 40-year-old, or are past menopause
- If you have had one UTI, you’ll probably get another one
- 15 per cent of all women have UTI issues at least once a year
- 2-4 per cent of women have high levels of bacteria in their urine, which might indicate an unrecognised UTI
- 30 per cent of you will have a UTI at some point in your life
The groups who get the most UTIs are babies, pregnant women and the elderly, though if you have a catheter, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS or ongoing urological issues, you’ve got more problems than most in many ways, but UTIs may be a feature.