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17 Things To Know About UTIs So They Don't Ruin Your Life

Besides the fact that they're HELL ON EARTH.

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But knowledge is power, so here's everything you need to know so you can try to avoid them, treat them, and make them a little less terrible.

1. UTIs happen when bacteria makes its way into your bladder via your urethra.

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That bacteria then sticks to the wall of the bladder and replicates, causing the hellish, painful infection, Dr. Benjamin M. Brucker, assistant professor of Urology and Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells BuzzFeed Life.

2. Getting one or two a year is pretty normal if you have a vagina.

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This is because the urethra is a super-close neighbor to the vagina and the anus, where plenty of bacteria live — basically setting you up to have UTIs every once in a while, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, tells BuzzFeed Life. "The other thing we have going against us compared to guys is our urethras are very short, just a couple of millimeters for the bacteria to scale up into the bladder," she says.

3. If you have a penis, though, UTIs are much less common and might be a sign of a bigger problem, especially if you're young.

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The male urethra is longer and not nestled right next to a hotbed of bacteria the way women's urethras are. "A young male really shouldn't be getting a urinary tract infection, so even one warrants attention," says Brucker. "It can suggest that the bladder isn't emptying normally, or that there might be kidney stones or scar tissue in the urethra."

4. The most common symptoms are frequent and super painful urination.

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You probably recognize a UTI when you have one, says Minkin. It essentially wreaks havoc on your peeing habits, making you feel like you have to go all the time. And when you do pee, it burns. A lot.

5. But you should always get the infection confirmed by a doctor — to get antibiotics and to make sure it isn't something else.

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Other issues might present with the same symptoms. Something you think is a UTI could be a variety of other things, such as pelvic floor dysfunctions, kidney stones, or an overactive bladder, says Brucker. So even if your symptoms aren't out of control, your best bet is going to the doctor and finding out exactly what's up.

6. And get to the doctor ASAP if your symptoms go beyond frequent and painful urination.

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Because UTIs can sometimes develop into a more severe kidney infection, you should promptly see a doctor if you also have a fever, blood in your urine, or severe back or side pain. Luckily, this is very rare, particularly in otherwise healthy young women, says Minkin.

7. Sex is a common culprit — especially a lot of sex.

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Simply put, sex is the easiest way for the urethra to come in contact with lots of bacteria, says Minkin, whether that's from the genitals, the anus, your partner's mouth, toys, whatever. And when you have a lot of sex, especially in a short period of time, you might be more susceptible to it ending in a UTI. Minkin says this is known as "honeymoon cystitis," but just because it has a cute name doesn't make the UTI any less miserable.

8. But there are other things that can cause it, like poor hygiene ~down there~.

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You're probably following this golden rule already, but just in case: Make sure that when you go to the bathroom, you wipe from front to back. Doing it the opposite way spreads bacteria from your anus to the urethra, which can cause a UTI.

9. Exercise can play a part, too.

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There's no need to stop strenuous activity — just make sure you don't sit around in your sweaty clothes after you're done working out, says Minkin. The warm, sweaty environment is unfortunately great for bacteria. It could even cause a yeast infection to go with that UTI.

10. There's not a ton of definitive data out there about preventing UTIs, but that doesn't mean there aren't things that might work for you.

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"Whenever we're dealing with a common problem like this, there are going to be a whole slew of 'your grandma's solutions' for them that aren't backed up by scientific data," says Brucker. That's not to say that these things might not work for you, but just keep in mind that the lack of scientific studies on the topic make it hard for scientists and physicians to say one way or another what you should do.

11. You've probably heard that chugging cranberry juice helps prevent UTIs, but that's not really the best option.

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Studies have shown that cranberry extract can help bacteria — specifically E. Coli, the most common UTI-causing bacteria — from sticking to the bladder wall, says Brucker. That basically means it can make it easier to "flush out" the bacteria by peeing. That said, drinking a ton of cranberry juice isn't really your best option, because you wind up taking in a lot of unneeded sugar and calories. Cranberry extract supplements might be a better way to go, but check with your doctor before trying them.

12. Some people find that vitamin C supplements help, too.

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Vitamin C can acidify your urine, says Brucker, which in turn can create a hostile environment for foreign bacteria.

13. There are some other products that say they can prevent UTIs, but you might want to take those claims with a grain of salt.

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You may have heard of a new dietary supplement called Uqora, which claims to reduce your risk of getting a UTI if you drink it after sex or exercise (or if it's been awhile since you've been able to shower). The drink mix contains high levels of ingredients found in cranberry juice, like D-mannose and Vitamin C, which could help prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

Sounds pretty sweet, but unfortunately, it's impossible to say whether it's any more or less effective than any other remedy without more data, says Brucker. "But again, there's a lack of data for most UTI prevention myths, not just this product."

14. Peeing right after sex can't hurt, either.

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Again, there's not a ton of data to back this up, but both Minkin and Brucker say they have patients for whom this works. "It makes sense to empty the bladder after doing something [like sex] that may have introduced bacteria there," says Brucker. "It's not necessarily wrong to do and if it works for you, sure, keep doing it."

15. Same with drinking lots of water.

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Drinking lots of fluids helps dilute and flush things out down there, according to Minkin. Staying hydrated is also super important once you have a UTI and can help relieve symptoms.

16. Your birth control might also be contributing to recurrent UTIs.

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According to Brucker, if you take low-estrogen birth control and you get UTIs frequently, there might be a link between the two. Since estrogen helps maintain normal vaginal lubrication and acidity, if those levels drop, you could be more susceptible to dryness, abrasions, and infections, which could make you more likely to develop a UTI.

17. Once you have a UTI, an over-the-counter urinary pain reliever can help make things less miserable.

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It may turn your pee orange, but it's Minkin's go-to recommendation for making UTI symptoms slightly more bearable as you wait for antibiotics to clear it up.

Obviously, though, if anything seems off or you're getting UTIs all the damn time, check in with your doctor.

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Every body (and bladder) is different, so err on the side of caution to make sure things are running smoothly down there.

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