You’ll wake at 3 a.m. with a throbbing clitoris. You’ll rush to the bathroom, and your relief will be mixed with toe-curling agony. Every analogy you come up with to describe what having a UTI feels like won’t describe the real life horror show of it. Like a cat scratching at your vagina. Like funnelling lemon juice up your urethra. An infinity junk punch.
- Amy-Mackelden, xojane
For anyone who has endured the pain and debilitation of a urinary tract infection, this article might hit a bit too close to home. It suuuucks. There’s no question about that. But sometimes we can find comfort in common experiences, to know that we’re not alone, and to marvel at their wondrous way with words when it comes to describing something that can feel indescribable.
With Mingo, part of my goal is to share knowledge and compassion around this dreadfully common infection, and to create a platform for women everywhere to support each other and hear from each other.
So here it is, Urinary Tract Infections in the words of those unfortunate enough to be initiated. Big shout out to all the brave ladies who have shared already for all to empathize with, and even chuckle at. Feel free to send me your own flowery tidbits of distress. There’s something about talking about UTIs that makes us feel less alone in the suffering, and so next time your boyfriend asks you what it feels like you can say…
– Jumanji-Manji (Reddit)
“It teases like hunger pangs, and you’ll wonder, ‘did something just happen?’, but you’ll write it off as just an anomaly.” (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
"It can start as a tingle, with an urge to urinate soon after using the bathroom." (Unknown)
But if you’ve felt it before, there’s a special kind of dread that comes along with those first symptoms,
“That feeling of ‘oh god please don’t be a UTI’” (generaldeliciousness, Tumblr)
“You know there is something wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. You have to pee all the time. Like every half hour. But every time you pee, it hurts. The pain is different for each, but it's often referred to as burning or like stabbing knives. There is no mistaking that you have something going on.”(lostinedental, Reddit)
"… I think I said to the doctor at the time y'know it wasn't horrendous it was just niggling and I just knew it wasn't right" (Study Interview, 88–90)
"When you go to the bathroom nothing comes out, maybe a drip, and the drip buuuurns, ooooh, the burrrn. And if pee does come out, the feeling that you have to go really bad, doesn’t go away. It’s a special kind of hell peeps." (Laci Green, A Naked Notion)
"You have to go alot and urgently and there will be little that comes out. It also feels like you are not completely emptying your bladder. Sometimes your urine is a dark yellow and thicker than usual and it may burn when you are able to go. Also, if it gets alittle worse, your urinary tract may feel irritated, like a burny itch." (Angeev, Pregnancy-Info Forums)
"You’ll get back into bed, and you’ll need to go again, and will think, “Are you fucking kidding me?” And you’ll piss nothing, like literally nothing, but it’ll feel like squeezing splinters from your bladder." (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
"You might feel like you need to pee a lot, but not much is going to out. It would hurt A LOT, even if you have a high pain tolerance. Like, searing pain. If you're really unlucky you might have blood in your urine, too." (nbauto, Reddit)
"At some point after, out of nowhere, it’ll feel like a razor sharp knitting needle is stabbing your urethra. You’ll wonder what you did to deserve this, and your brain will compile a list of every bad thing you did that you’re probably being punished for now. But the self-flagellation won’t help. You’ll still be pissing knives, and swearing off sex forevs." (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
"It feels like a small, scaley reptile that breaths fire is residing in your bladder and torching your urethra every time you urinate." (OttotheTurk, Reddit)
"It’s so depressing - I don’t get ‘simply cystitis- that infection (sic) that seems to only live on in text books!’ - I get vile infections that are really hard to shift. I get shaking and shivering, terrible diarrhea, waves of nausea and generally end up losing about half a stone when I get an attack" (Dora)
"I’m feeling quite ‘fluey’ at the moment, and having spasms around my waist and up my back, there is a ‘knot’ above my pubic bone in my bladder and the pelvic floor doesn’t feel right at all. My legs are killing me, and there is also some stabbing in my right hip" (Eva)
"It just got worse and worse and it got to the stage where I couldn't go to work and I was just in agony." (Study Interview, 11: 28)
Of course, when we’re talking searing pain and discomfort in the urinary area, that means your sex life isn’t exactly ticking along either. Depending on the stage of your relationship, this can be really damaging.
"It only ever happens after intercourse and has left me terrified to have sex, this illness has ruined numerous relationships for me" (Gabby)
"My husband is very understanding, but I’m extremely depressed by the fact that we can no longer be intimate without weeks of pain afterwards" (Issy)
"I was just to the point, you know, it, it stops life doesn't it … it stops normal living and that's when I went." (Study Interview, 17: 6–10)
“I would probably enjoy being alive if I didn’t constantly feel like someone shoved a hot curling iron into my urinary tract, but it’s whatever I guess.” (sickneglect, Tumblr)
"… it sort of became more and more debilitating and it was realising how debilitating it could be … the effects of having it became … quite big … it was affecting how I was feeling generally, like emotionally and physically." (Study Interview, 14: 203–207)
"The UTIs have taken a huge toll on my sex-life (and therefore my relationship), work, social life and finances" (Abby)
Especially if your suffering is combined with misinformation or poor medical advice,
"I only wish the doctor had given me specific tips rather than the ‘try to keep clean’ nonsense which left me feeling down" (Eva)
Or you have some scary symptoms,
"I'd had some bleeding as well, so I — I felt that it was a little more of a problem than could just be treated with — with fluids basically, so there was concern for that" (Study Interview, 6: 81–84)
"By the Monday the backache was quite nasty so I'm thinking “oh that's it I've got a kidney … thingy bob” (Study Interview, 1: 196–198)
Enter the Doctor’s Office. Many of us have amazing doctors, and we love them for helping us recover quickly. But it’s clear that not all medical professionals have gotten the memo on UTIs.
“He really didn’t want me to have [an antibiotic] he was a bit blasé about it and um . . . I thought I told him . . . I was sort of passing blood” (Study Patient 11)
"A urologist a few years ago (I had no faith in him at all) asked me about my hygiene, I felt like hitting him!!" (Yasmine)
"My doctor’s useless as well, he just sais (sic) “its normal for women to get these infections” well what use is that to me" (Hilary)
"I had had a bad experience in the past of a GP who refused to prescribe me anything until he (of course it was a man!) had sent off a urine test. This would’ve meant waiting days for the results and I was in agony" (Sue)
"The doctor will want a urine sample, and you’ll realise that peeing into a tiny pot isn’t a game of accuracy. Your fingers will be wet and the label on the pot will soak slightly, announcing your poor aim to the world." (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
Ok, so you’re on antibiotics and everything is better, right? Wrong! Antibiotics have to kick in. It’s like waiting for the bell on the last day of school before summer, except that the school is on fire and the school is your bladder,
"You’ll lie in bed wondering if people die from UTIs (they definitely do, btw), and hope that the pills start to work by tomorrow." (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
UTI drinking game:
"When your piss stops spraying sideways, you’ll know you’re making progress. When a UTI is raging, you’ll piss pieces, too. Indiscernible strings of pink matter. You won’t want to think too hard about what this is – just flush it, yeah? It’s legit disgusting." (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
"Then the meds will work and you’ll forget the week you wanted to quit life because your bladder staged an intervention. You’ll vow to drink more cranberry juice. But it won’t make much difference. This visitor will be back, when you’re least expecting it, taking up residence in your bladder like a slug in a wall crack, only worse." (Amy-Mackelden, xojane)
"My casket slowly begins lowering into the ground...
me, knocking from inside: “Wait, I have to pee.”
"Over the years I have used many different antibiotics, some times to clear infections and for a period of about 6 years I took them when we had sex as a preventative. However I am now resistant to many of these drugs" (Naomi)
"Antibiotics dont seem to help much now, helps a little at the start but seems to come back just as quick when its chronic, and also now more reluctant to take long term antibiotics" (Olive)
Personally, I hated that the end of a bad UTI was just more doom, gloom, and antibiotic science fiction. I created Mingo Health to prevent this from every happening again. You can read more about Mingo here or more about our medical ingredient, D-Mannose here.
Questions? Comments? Collaboration ideas? Let's chat!
1. “What does UTI feel like - Pregnancy-Info.” Pregnancy-Info.net.
2. “What Having a UTI Feels Like, In Excruciating Detail.” XoJane: Women's Lifestyle & Community Site - xoJane, 15 Mar. 2017.
3. “What does a UTI feel like? • r/TwoXChromosomes.” Reddit.
4. “Exactly What a UTI Feels Like, in 24 GIFs.” Greatist, 1 Dec. 2017.
5. Leydon, G M, et al. “Women's views about management and cause of urinary tract infection: qualitative interview study.”The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 5 Feb. 2010, www.bmj.com/content/340/bmj.c279.
6. Oakes, Kelly. “17 Jokes That Are Way Too Real For People Who Get UTIs.” BuzzFeed.
7. Green, Lacy. "UTI DRAMA." Youtub & Planned Parenthood, 14 May. 2014.
8. Flower, Andrew, et al. “How women manage recurrent urinary tract infections: an analysis of postings on a popular web forum.” BMC Family Practice, BioMed Central, 26 Sept. 2014, bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2296-15-162.
9. Leydon, Geraldine M, et al. “The journey from self-Care to GP care: a qualitative interview study of women presenting with symptoms of urinary tract infection.” British Journal of General Practice, British Journal of General Practice, 1 July 2009, bjgp.org/content/59/564/e219.