Ask the Doctor: How Can I Prevent UTIs?

Questions that may be too embarrassing to ask…

Jennifer H. Smith, MD, OB/GYN

“I seem to be having more frequent urinary tract infections. How can I prevent them?”

Urinary tract infections are quite com­mon and can be painful. Caused by bac­teria from the lower genital tract, women are more likely than men to get them because their urethra is significantly shorter, 1 ½ inches versus 8 inches there is a shorter distance for bacteria to travel to infect the bladder. I advise my patients to take a few simple precautions. After in­tercourse, empty your bladder promptly. Bacteria can be intro­duced into the urinary tract with intercourse, and emptying the blad­der helps flush out bac­teria. Also be careful to wipe from front to back when going to the bath­room. A common home remedy, cranberry juice, may help decrease the risk of infection; howev­er, it doesn’t cure an ex­isting one. If you think you have an infection, see your doctor since you may need antibiotics.

“Some nights I wake up drenched. Is this a hot flash? If so, am I starting menopause?”

Waking up wet is commonly referred to as a night sweat. This is equivalent to a hot flash, but it isn’t necessarily a sign of menopause. Night sweats can be a side effect of medica­tions, such as antidepressants. Some women have an increase in night sweats prior to their menstrual period due to a natural drop in estrogen levels. Medical problems, such as thyroid dysfunction, also may result in sweat­ing or hot flashes. Most women have night sweats and hot flashes due to menopausal changes, usually begin­ning in peri menopause. Peri menopause precedes menopause by five to 10 years and varies in severity. If symptoms impact your quality of life, your doctor can guide you through the therapeutic options.

Dr. Jennifer Smith is a board-certified OB/GYN on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. She earned her medical degree and com­pleted her residency in OB/GYN at Washington Uni­versity School of Medicine.

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