One of the things that bothers me most about endometriosis is how fundamentally unfair it is. For me, most of that comes from all the other stuff we have to deal with as side-effects. That’s why I’m writing a three part series on the really glamorous aspects of endometriosis and how to deal with them.
Of all the physical side-effects we can get from endometriosis, I reckon UTIs (urinary tract infections) have to be the absolute worse. They are just so horrifically miserable to deal with.
What does a UTI feel like?
Usually, a UTI will manifest as a stinging pain in your bladder and/or uretha (where your urine comes out, and not the same as the vagina, contrary to what people like this genius think). You may also feel the urge to go to the toilet constantly, even if you’ve just been. These terms all feel too mild, though. “Stinging” doesn’t really describe it. It’s more like acidic fire burning its way through your urinary tract. The urge to go to the toilet is practically overwhelming. At best, it is a constant distraction. At worst, it is pure agony. With a really bad UTI, you simply cannot function normally. Some get so bad that they include infection to the kidneys, which I have never experienced but am told is torture.
What can I do if I get one?
There is no cure for UTIs except antibiotics, and you should make getting some your first priority. Get thee to a doctor, immediately.
However, there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms until the antibiotics kick in.
- Take a shower. Flush cool or warm water (not hot) over that area and make sure it is as clean as a whistle.
- Drink Ural. It’s not the tastiest – kind of an unenthusiastic, bitter lemonade – but it is effective at reducing or relieving the symptoms. I always keep some in stock because UTIs can strike from nowhere, for no reason, and this is the best method of pain relief I know. If you can’t get Ural, dissolve 1/4 of a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water and knock that back. It tastes worse than the Ural, but it will help in a pinch. Just don’t overdo it, as you can poison yourself with excessive baking soda.
- Take panadol. It won’t do much but it’s better than nothing.
- Drink heaps of water. Try and flush that bad boy out by drinking heaps and peeing often.
- Sit on a heat pad. It’s not glamorous, clutching a wheat bag to your nethers, but it may provide some comfort.
Things you should not do include:-
- Sticking soap down there in an attempt to cleanse, including things marketed as “feminine products.” Those are a gimmick anyway and you don’t need them, and they are likely to simply irritate things.
- Drinking cranberry juice. Although cranberries promote urinary tract health, commercial juice is mostly sugar, and sugar just makes UTI’s worse.
- Eating acidic, spicy or sugary food, or drinking caffeine or carbonated drinks. Stick to a really bland, boring diet until the UTI is gone to avoid irritating it.
- Wearing tight clothes. You do not want tight stuff on your crotch while this is going on. Also try to stick to natural products, like cotton, to avoid a sweaty crotch.
This is all well and good, of course, but the best thing to do is to avoid getting one in the first place.
How can I prevent UTIs?
For people with endo, the likelihood is that you’ll get a UTI at some point regardless of the precautions you take, so don’t blame yourself if you keep getting them. That being said, you should take them anyway to minimise the risk of contracting one.
- Have a diet rich in Vitamin C. Vit C helps promote bladder health and reduces the likelihood of contracting a UTI in the first place.
- Take cranberry supplements. They really do help. Also eat lots of blueberries, for the same reason.
- Take probiotics. Having healthy gut flora ensures that your insides are working at peak efficiency.
- If you are sexually active, wash immediately before and after sexual intercourse, and pee immediately after. Activity down there can push bacteria into the urethra, causing UTIs, and urinating helps flush it back out. Washing the area helps prevent the transfer of bacteria from one part of the groin to another, such as from the anus to the urethra.
- On that note, ALWAYS wipe front to back. If you wipe your anus first and then swipe it forward, you are transferring faecal bacteria right through your vulva and into your urethra. Bad. Many infections are coming your way.
- Stay hydrated. Peeing often helps flush out that urinary tract, and ensures healthy kidney function.
- Practice good personal hygiene. Change your undies and pads regularly, and wash down there daily. Even if you can’t shower as often as you like, take a wet flannel and keep yourself clean downstairs. It can be very difficult, especially if you are physically disabled or have your period, but staying as clean as you can will really help. If you have the money and the DIY skills, consider installing one of those clip-on toilet bidets.
- Speak to your doctor about having antibiotics on hand if you are prone to them. I went through a spate where I was having UTIs back-to-back for weeks. It was awful, and every time I had to go to the doctor and get a new prescription. I know a couple of ladies whose friendly doctors have given them large prescriptions so that they can pop a pill every time they feel an infection coming on and knock it on the head. Some will even have one each time they have sex, as that is a particularly high-risk time for those prone to UTIs. Of course, not all doctors will agree, and are unlikely to prescribe them unless you are coming in all the time with repeated UTIs, so you will have to suffer a fair bit to convince them.
That concludes my advice on UTIs. Do you have any tips and tricks I’ve missed out on? Do you think they are the worst side-effect, or is there another that bothers you more?