Common UTI Myths and Facts

6026
Jessica Guht
Categorized as UTI

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause havoc in your body in various ways. It is an infection that can develop in any part of your urinary system, including your bladder, urethra, and kidneys. In more severe cases, it can simultaneously cause problems in all of these areas of your body. Because of their shorter urethra, women are more prone to UTIs. However, men can get them as well. A common myth about UTIs is that men cannot get them.

However, here, we attempt to dispel some of these common UTI myths and share some interesting facts about this type of infection so that you know how to prevent and/or manage them. 

Table of Contents

UTI Myths

A UTI can occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and begin to overgrow there, 

ultimately resulting in an infection of the urinary tract. A UTI is characterized by painful urination, cloudy urine, a burning sensation when you urinate, severe pelvic and abdominal pain, fatigue, and irritation. Other symptoms include a burning sensation when you urinate. Because a UTI can even spread to the kidneys, people need to be informed about all aspects of the condition. 

Let’s look at some of the most common UTI myths.

Myth 1 – The leading cause of UTIs is poor hygiene

There is no correlation between having poor hygiene and getting a urinary tract infection (UTI). Just having a urinary system is all that is required to get an infection, especially if you are female. It is unfortunate but true that you can have perfect hygiene and still get a urinary tract infection. Always wipe from the front to the back just to be safe, and avoid using soap in intimate areas – just plain water. 

Myth 2 – UTIs can be sexually transmitted

Sexual activity is linked to the occurrence of UTIs. UTIs, on the other hand, are not considered to be sexually transmitted infections. It is not the case that the sexual partners of people who suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections also suffer from the same condition.

Because intercourse can push bacteria already in the urethra into the bladder, many people believe it causes bladder infections. These bacteria have the potential to cause an infection in that location.

During sexual activity, bacteria usually found in the vagina or on the surface of the vulva can migrate into the urethra. These bacteria can cause infections.

Myth 3 – Only women get UTIs

Infections of the urinary tract are common in both males and females. On the other hand, women are more likely to experience them. This is because the female urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world, is shorter than the male urethra. Because of this, bacteria can more easily reach the bladder, which puts women at a greater risk of developing UTIs. This does not mean that men can’t get them, though.

Myth 4 – UTIs can’t go away on their own

This is tricky because some minor UTIs can and do go away by themselves. Infections that go untreated can spread to other parts of the body, including the kidney, which can lead to serious health complications or be life-threatening. 

Treatment for UTIs usually involves taking a short course of antibiotics, which requires a doctor’s prescription. On the other hand, once you begin taking antibiotics, the infection will typically begin to clear up rather quickly. If your symptoms start to worsen or the pain moves to your abdomen, your infection may spread, requiring you to start further treatment as soon as possible. 

Myth 5 – UTIs can delay your periods

There is no correlation between having a urinary tract infection and having periods. On the other hand, if you get a UTI and subsequently notice a delay in the onset of your periods, the following factors may be to blame:

Infection can cause stress, and if you have an infection, you may be experiencing some stress as a natural side effect. Because the hormones that are released in the body in response to stress, primarily cortisol, interfere with the reproductive hormones that cause periods, this can result in a potential delay in the arrival of your period. 

Although most oral antibiotics used to treat lower tract UTIs do not interfere with reproductive hormones, one antibiotic, in particular, is known to disrupt the hormone levels, leading to a possible delay in the onset of your periods. This antibiotic is called erythromycin.

UTI Facts 

Now that we have covered some of the most common UTI myths let’s look at some facts you may not have known about UTIs. 

Fact 1

There can be different symptoms of a UTI – and not everyone who experiences one will get symptoms.

Most people with urinary tract infections will experience symptoms similar to one another, such as pain or burning sensations during urination and an increased need to urinate frequently. However, not everyone will have the same experience. It is possible to have a UTI but not experience any symptoms at all.

Fact 2

The use of birth control may increase the likelihood of contracting a UTI.

Specific methods of birth control may increase the likelihood of contracting an infection. Because they exert pressure on the urethra through the vagina, diaphragms are the contraceptive device most responsible for the increased risk of infection. Additionally, spermicidal agents have the potential to disrupt the natural environment of the vaginal canal and encourage the growth of bacteria. 

Fact 3

UTIs are not limited to adults; they can also affect children and infants.

The truth is that urinary tract infections can develop in children and infants. When the infection is treated, it will typically clear up quickly, just as it does in adults. However, if the infection is not treated, it can spread to the kidneys and cause permanent damage to the body. Infants born with abnormalities in their urinary systems are more likely to contract infections.

Fact 4

It is not uncommon for women to suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections. 

Persistent urinary tract infections are a common problem for women. Close to twenty percent of women who have had a UTI will go on to develop a second one, and thirty percent of those will develop a third one. There are ways to help prevent infections, even though it is not possible to avoid them entirely.

Fact 5

Wearing swimsuits can increase the likelihood of UTIs.

There is a correlation between wearing swimwear or wet clothing and an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections.  Because of the warmth and moisture in the surrounding environment, bacteria can form when a person wears wet clothes for an extended period. If you want to avoid getting a UTI as a result,  change out of your wet clothes as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a very common form of illness that affects women most of the time and can be brought on by various factors. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you experience recurrent UTIs or are looking for ways to alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing. Your primary care physician will be able to investigate the likely cause of your condition and, if necessary, prescribe medication to treat it.

Sources:

  • Agbo, B.. (2016). A review on the prevalence and predisposing factors responsible for urinary tract infection among adults. European Journal of Experimental Biology, 2016, 6(4):7-11. 6. 7-11. Available here
  • Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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