Everything Female College Students Need to Know about UTIs

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system caused by bacteria. It affects millions of people in the United States every year.  A UTI can occur anywhere along the urinary tract, which includes both the upper and lower parts of the system, as well as the bladder and urethra. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and if left untreated, a UTI can lead to more serious problems. Fortunately, treatment is available.

How Do You Know If You Have a UTI?

Only a medical professional can officially diagnose your UTI.  In order to diagnose a UTI, your doctor will typically collect a urine sample from you to check for the bacteria or yeast.  Your doctor will also ask about your symptoms and possibly take a medical history.  If you go to a clinic in person, a healthcare provider may conduct a physical examination, to examine the abdomen and genitals for signs of infection. 

When Should You Get Tested for a UTI?

Symptoms of a UTI in women often include having a burning sensation or pain when urinating.  Another common symptom is having a frequent and urgent need to go to the bathroom.  Some women experience pain in the lower abdomen, buttocks, or back.  With a UTI, your urine may be cloudy or have a strong odor.  If you experience any of these symptoms, get tested for a UTI as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the worse your symptoms can become.  

How Can You Treat It?

Treatment for a UTI typically depends on the severity of your symptoms and the results of your urine test.  For more serious cases, doctors may prescribe antibiotics like ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole to help cure the infection. In some cases, your doctor may recommend antifungal medications if yeast is suspected of causing the UTI.  In cases where the patient is experiencing extreme pain, the physician may prescribe or recommend pain medications. Drinking plenty of fluids and taking over-the-counter pain medications can also help reduce your discomfort. 

Are They Contagious?

No, urinary tract infections are not contagious. They do not spread from person to person and cannot be passed through sexual contact or casual contact with affected persons.  UTIs usually occur due to bacteria entering the body via the urethra.

Who Gets UTIs?

Anyone can get a UTI, although statistically women are 30 times more likely to suffer from them. About 40-60% of adult women will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime. 

Even if you're not sexually active, you can still get a urinary tract infection as bacteria from other sources—like the skin or digestive system—can enter the urinary tract. Although anyone can get a UTI, women with diabetes, kidney stones, or who are pregnant may be more prone to them due to weakened immune systems or anatomical issues that impede urine flow.  

What Can You Do to Avoid Getting Them?

There are some steps you can take to lower your risk of getting UTIs. Drink plenty of fluids every day.  Water is a great choice as it helps flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.  Some women drink cranberry juice, believing the acidity helps cleanse the urinary tract.  

Urinate when you need to.  Don’t hold it.  When you go, be sure to empty your bladder completely.  When you are done using the toilet, always, always, always wipe front to back.  

Avoid using feminine hygiene products like douches, powders, and sprays in your genital area.  Change out of wet clothing (e.g., bathing suit) quickly after swimming.  Urinate before and after having sex to help flush bacteria from your urethra.

Do You Have to Go See a Doctor to Get Treated?

UTIs can usually be treated with antibiotics and most people can get online UTI treatment.  However, if you are experiencing severe pain or have a fever, it is best to visit an in-person clinic or urgent care center so that your doctor can accurately assess the situation and provide appropriate treatment.  Additionally, if your UTI is recurrent or you are pregnant, it is important to get medical care as soon as possible to avoid further complications.  Utilizing online doctor services and in-person clinics are both great ways to get a diagnosis and start getting relief.