|Urinary Tract Infection in Women
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria and are 10 times more
common among women than men. About 30 percent of UTIs go away and do not recur.
When UTIs do recur, it is often because the treatments used to suppress bacteria
seem to work at first, but do not produce a lasting cure. UTIs can also recur
when a woman is infected again by a different kind of bacterium.
|Signs and Symptoms|
- Pain or burning when urinating
- The need to urinate more often than usual
- A feeling of urgency when you urinate
- Blood or pus in the urine
- Cramps or pain in the lower abdomen
- Chills or fever (fever may be the only symptom in infants and
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pain during sexual
|What Causes It?|
Some risk factors include the following.
- A new sex partner or multiple partners
- More frequent or intense intercourse
- Use of irritating products such as harsh skin cleansers
- Use of irritating contraceptives such as diaphragms and
- Use of birth control pills
- Heavy use of antibiotics
- A blockage in the urinary tract (benign masses or tumors)
- A history of UTIs, especially if the infections were less than six
|What to Expect at Your Provider's Office|
Your health care provider will feel your abdomen and kidneys for changes and
use laboratory tests, such as a urine culture, to find out if you have a UTI. If
the usual treatments do not work, your provider will explore the possibility
that you have some other condition. Other illnesses can cause symptoms that
mimic a UTI, such as sexually transmitted diseases.
Several antibiotics and other drugs are used to treat UTIs. The most
effective antibiotics are usually taken for 7 to 10 days. Shorter courses of
treatment are available, and your health care provider may prescribe an
antibiotic that you take for 1 to 3 days.
|Complementary and Alternative
- Drink a lot of fluids, such as herbal teas and water. Avoid sweetened
fruit juices and other sweetened drinks.
- Eliminate refined foods, fruit juices, caffeine, alcohol, and
- Cranberries and blueberries contain substances that inhibit the
binding of bacteria to bladder tissue. Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice
regularly seems to help lower the risk of UTIs and can help cure one if you
drink it when you first feel symptoms.
- Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg two times per day) makes urine acidic, which
inhibits bacterial growth.
- Beta-carotene (25,000 to 50,000 IU per day) is necessary for immune
function and mucous membrane integrity.
- Zinc (30 to 50 mg per day) supports immune
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with
1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or
flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
Start herbal therapy at the first sign of symptoms and continue for three
days after you start feeling better. Teas work best for treating UTIs because
the additional fluid intake helps the "flushing action." Combine two herbs from
each of the following categories and drink 4 to 6 cups per day.
- Urinary antiseptics are antimicrobial: uva ursi (Arctostaphylos
uva ursi), buchu (Agathosma betulina), thyme leaf (Thymus
vulgaris), pipissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)
- Urinary astringents tone and heal the urinary tract: horsetail
(Equisetum arvense), plantain (Plantago major)
- Urinary demulcents soothe the inflamed urinary tract: corn silk
(Zea mays), couch grass (Agropyron repens)
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) is best used alone in a cold
infusion. Soak 1 heaping tbsp. of marshmallow root in 1 qt. of cold water
overnight. Strain and drink during the day in addition to any other urinary
For advanced or recurrent infections prepare a tincture of equal parts of
goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
Take 30 drops four to six times per day.
There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific
homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend one or
more of the following treatments for UTI based on their knowledge and clinical
experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's
constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her
physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses
all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a
- Apis mellifica — for stinging or
burning pains that tend to worsen at night and from warmth; individuals for whom
this remedy is appropriate feel an intense urge to urinate, yet can only do so
- Aconitum — for early symptoms of UTI,
particularly with extremely painful urination that is often described as a hot
- Berberis — for UTIs with burning or
shooting pain during urination that may radiate to the pelvis and/or back; when
not urinating, an aching sensation is present in the bladder that worsens with
movement; pains may also extend to legs and abdomen
- Cantharis — this is the most common
and considered the most effective homeopathic remedy for UTI; this remedy is
most appropriate for individuals who are restless, experience a burning
sensation and decreased urine flow (despite a strong desire to urinate), and
have increased sexual desire despite symptoms
- Mercurius — for burning urination and
a strong urge to urinate; symptoms worsen at night and tend to be accompanied by
chills and sweating; urine is dark and only small amounts pass; burning
sensation is often worse when the individual is not urinating
- Nux vomica — for individuals who have
a constant urge to urinate; pain is described as needle-like; urge to have a
bowel movement may accompany urinary urgency; mild, temporary relief may be
experienced from urination and warm baths; symptoms may begin following
ingestion of alcohol, coffee, drugs or overeating
- Pulsatilla — for bladder inflammation
that begins after an individual develops a sudden chill in hot weather; this
remedy is most appropriate for individuals with an urgent desire to urinate who
may be emotional, crave attention, and dribble urine after laughing, coughing,
sneezing, or being surprised
- Sarsaparilla — for women who
experience severe pain at the end of urination and who, occasionally, may feel
compelled to stand to urinate
- Staphysagria — for UTIs usually
associated with sexual intercourse or following extreme embarrassment or
humiliation, particularly from sexual abuse; this remedy is most appropriate for
those who have an urgent desire to urinate and have the sensation that a single
drop of urine is still present even following urination
Preventive measures you can follow:
- Urinate both before and after intercourse.
- Have your health care provider recheck the fit of your diaphragm if
you use one.
- Avoid sex while you are being treated for a
If you are pregnant, you are more at risk for developing a
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|Review Date: August 1999|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: David Perlmutter, MD, Perlmutter
Health Center, Commons Medical and Surgical Centre, Naples, FL; Leonard
Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University, Rockville, MD; Elizabeth
Wotton, ND, private practice, Sausalito,
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