Weekend urinary tract infections: a doctor’s advice on cranberry juice and antibiotics

cranberries in bowlby James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

My unscientific, personal observation is that every woman eventually has a bladder infection that starts Friday afternoon after their regular doctor has closed.

Well, that may be an exaggeration, but the women who do have the burning, frequent and urgent urination, certainly don’t want to wait until Monday for relief so they come to the minor emergency clinic, where I occasionally work on weekends.

But is there anything you can you do at home? Does cranberry juice help? What if you’re a man with these symptoms?


UTI Basics

About 20 percent of women will eventually have a urinary tract infection. Men are much less frequent. It has to do with the smaller length of the urethra in women. That’s the tube that connects your bladder to cultureoutside, and that you urinate through. Because it’s short, it’s easy for outside bacteria to get in your bladder.

Some women are more prone than others. If you have more than a couple of UTIs per year, you probably need a workup to make sure all is OK in your waterworks. You may be retaining urine in the bladder, or the valve that keeps your urine from going back up into your kidney might not be working correctly. You might have a renal stone that gives you no symptoms but is a locus for infection.

Men usually don’t “just have” UTIs. They need a workup after the first one, unless it turns out to be a prostate infection or STD instead.

 


Cranberry Juice

Patients often ask me about cranberry juice. According the Cochrane Review (an independent, reliable source that puts all known studies on a topic together and tries to make sense out of them), cranberries, in any form, have not been proven to treat urinary tract infections. This is not a definite yea or nay; the studies just aren’t there yet for that. But you need to see your health-care provider for an antibiotic. The good news is that there are studies proving that most run-of-the-mill infections can be treated adequately after only three days on the meds.

For preventing urinary tract infections with cranberry juice the news is better. It has been found to help prevent UTIs. We just don’t know how much you need or for how long it works. Many people in the studies apparently did not think it was worth it and dropped out.


UTI Prevention

So what can you do to prevent these pesky, sometimes serious infections? Some proven ways are:

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of liquids.
  2. Don’t get in the habit of holding your urine. When you feel the urge, go.
  3. Urinate immediately after sex.
  4. Wipe from front to back.

Hope these tips make your weekends a little more enjoyable. Oh, if you take the blood thinner, warfarin (Coumadin) please contact your health-care provider before trying the cranberries. There can be interaction.

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4 Responses to “Weekend urinary tract infections: a doctor’s advice on cranberry juice and antibiotics”

  1. Nancy Sutherland Says:

    Whether or not their is any scientific proof, I can say with 100% certainty that it has worked for me in preventing and stopping a UTI. I haven’t had to resort to a prescription for this in over 15 years. That’s a pretty good track record. Cranberry juice rules. (I don’t think that it could hurt even if it didn’t help)

    Nancy Sutherlands last blog post..

  2. jhubbard Says:

    Sounds like it is working for you, Nancy. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Judy Rodman Says:

    I know a total tee-totaler (doesn’t drink alcohol) who, when faced with a very infrequent bladder infection she’s afraid will turn into a kidney infection, gets me to go down to the convenience store and get her one tall Budweiser. (She doesn’t want anyone from her church to see her buy it.)

    She swears it works. I know it makes her happy, and it completely cracks me up to see her drink it! :)

    Judy Rodmans last blog post..For Strainfree Vocal Power… watch where you squeeze!

  4. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H Says:

    Thanks Judy, S
    Some people say the diuretic effect will “flush out the kidneys”. I don’t think there has been a scientific study. If there was, I’ll bet there would be plenty of voluteers.

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