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November 28, 2016 4 min read 0 Comments

At first you felt the slight discomfort, shortly followed by a burning sensation when you have to pee.  

Knowing something wasn’t right your mind floods with questions:

  • “Oh god, was this from (INSERT SEXUAL PARTNER HERE)?”
  • “Was he clean? When was the last time he was tested? Has he EVER been tested?”
  • “...but we used a condom...right?”
  • “Why does my vagina/urethra hate me?”  
  • “What did I do to deserve this AGONY!?”

A few google searches later you’re lead to believe you might either have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a urinary tract infection (UTI), and need to go to the walk-in.  

Welcome to your first encounter with a urinary tract infection! (cue fireworks)

Take a deep breath—step one is identifying the issue.  Step two is understanding that UTIs aretreatable,preventable, andnot contagious.  It’s a common misconception that UTIs are a form of sexually transmitted disease due to the high likelihood of getting a UTI after sex.  However, although they are just one letter away, UTIs and STIs areso not the same thing.

What is an STI?

Sexually transmitted infections (or STDs) are infections like chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis—the scary words your health teacher told you about during her ‘use a condom’ pitch. They are typically transmitted through sexual activity from one partner to another.

Preventing STIs involves abstinence (KIDDING).  Safe sex is all about open communication with your partner, regular testing when you’re sexually active, and prompt response when an infection is suspected.

Is a UTI the same as a STI?

The short answer is no. Urinarytract infections (UTIs) are all about bacteria entering your body through the urethra and setting up camp. The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing urine: our kidneys filter stuff we don’t need, the ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and the bladder stores urine until we can find a bush to crouch behind, using some nifty inner muscles to hold it until we’re ready to go.

What causes A UTI?

Evil E. coli bacteria causes most UTIs, despite our body’s best efforts to defend against it. The infection starts by E. coli working its way up and into the urethra, attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. If left untreated, the bacteria can multiply and spread up to your kidneys also known as a kidney infection or pyelonephritis (NOT GOOD).

The bacteria can end up in there for all sorts of reasons including:

  • Sex:Sex is a common reason because…well because of all the…wetness… and jostling (you get the idea).
  • Contamination:Wiping the wrong way
  • Insulation and contamination:Wearing tight fitting clothing during your CN Tower stair climb (yikes)

Conveniently it just so happens that poo (or feces) there is agreat source of E. coli bacteria which can be found very nearby the urethra, especially for females. Although men can get UTIs, women have a much shorter urethra, meaning a more direct path for E. coli to get to in there.  This is why most females will get a UTI in their lifetime and most guys won’t. Conditions that prevent you from emptying your bladder, or weaken your immune system, further encourage the bacteria to set up shop and make your life miserable.

So the onlytransmitting that might happen is a partner inevitably helping to ‘move things around’ or help facilitate the movement of e-coli to your urethra. UTIs aren’t something that a condom can prevent. In fact, things like spermicides or condoms can actually irritate the inner walls, increasing the risk of bacteria invading the surrounding tissue.

What are common symptoms of a UTI?

Common symptoms of UTIs include:

  • a frequent and intense urge to urinate
  • a painful, burning feeling in the bladder or urethra during urination
  • feeling tired, shaky, and weak
  • muscle aches
  • abdominal pain
  • only small amounts of urine passed, despite a strong urge to urinate
  • cloudy, dark, or bloody urine or urine that has a foul smell
  • pain in the back or side below the ribs
  • nausea and vomiting
  • self-loathing coupled with a desire to simply camp out on the toilet (seriously)

UTIs are the second most common type of infection next to the common cold, accounting for millions of doctor visits. So if you get one, don’t worry, act fast, and don’t be embarrassed—you are NOT ALONE. When you go to your doctor, you’ll probably be asked about your symptoms and then do a simple urine test and be prescribed some antibiotics.

Talk to your doctor about treatment and then do what you can to prevent it from happening again in the future withsimple and effective solutions that work (hello MINGO). Everyone knows UTIs are the WORST, so don’t put yourself through that misery again!

 

nadia kumentas

Questions? Comments? Collaboration ideas? Let's chat!

 

Sources:

(1) "Urinary Tract Infection In Adults."National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 2012.

(2) "The Urinary Tract and How It Works." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jan. 2014. 

(3) Glowatz, Elana. "How To Spot and Treat A UTI."Medical Daily. N.p., 21 Oct. 2016. 

(4) "Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)." Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) - Diseases and Conditions - Health Canada. Health Canada, 19 May 2006. 


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