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5 myths about UTIs: Separating fact from fiction

Get to know the truth behind these common misconceptions about urinary tract infections

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If you’re experiencing a UTI, you may (understandably) be on the hunt for a quick, easy remedy to soothe your symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about UTIs and the myths that surround them.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that can occur anywhere in the urinary system, including the bladder, urethra and ureters (the tubes that connect your urinary system and filter it out of your body), and kidneys. UTI symptoms can include pain or burning when you pee, peeing a lot more than normal, pelvic discomfort, bad smelling pee, and cloudy or bloody urine. UTIs require proper diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics. If you think you may have a UTI, Hey Jane can help.

Here are five common misconceptions about UTIs, and the facts you need to know to stay safe from these pesky infections.

1. Myth: Only people with vulvas get UTIs

While it's true that people with vulvas are more prone to UTIs due to their shorter urethra, people with penises can also get UTIs (though it’s very rare). UTIs can occur (in anyone) when bacteria enters the urinary tract and multiplies. Factors like sexual activity, urinary tract abnormalities, and underlying health conditions can increase the risk of UTIs, regardless of what’s between your legs. Most common UTIs are caused by E Coli, the bacteria that naturally occurs in your intestines and can be spread to your urethra after sex or when wiping back-to-front after using the bathroom. Because the urethra (the tube urine comes out of) is longer in a penis and farther away from your rectum, it’s harder for this bacteria to travel there. Everything is closer together for people with vulvas, so the spread of bacteria is very common

2. Myth: Cranberry juice is a miracle cure for UTIs

You may have heard that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements prevents UTIs, but research has found mixed results. Some research has found that cranberry juice and supplements contain compounds that may help prevent UTIs by keeping bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining. (Fun fact: Under a microscope, E Coli almost looks like it has claws and loves to dig into the walls of the bladder.) Drinking lots of water helps flush out this bacteria and is the best thing, along with antibiotics, to help treat a UTI. Other studies failed to prove that cranberry juice prevents UTIs. Regardless, there is very little risk to taking cranberry juice or supplements, so if you get UTIs frequently and feel like they can help, it may be worth a shot! Just make sure to avoid options that are high in sugar, as it can help infections and bacteria grow.

One thing is for certain: Cranberries are not a cure for existing UTIs. Antibiotics are typically needed to treat UTIs caused by bacteria. It's important to consult a health care provider, like Hey Jane, for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Say bye to your UTI

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3. Myth: Holding urine causes UTIs

While some research suggests that holding urine for long periods of time may put you at higher risk for getting a UTI, holding urine alone doesn’t cause the infection. UTIs result from bacteria getting into the urinary tract, which happen when you have sex, wiping back to front after using the bathroom, being hospitalized, exposure to contaminated water, and more. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to listen to your body and pee when you have to pee! This will help prevent bacteria from multiplying in the urinary tract, particularly for individuals who are prone to UTIs.

4. Myth: Drinking more water prevents UTIs

Staying hydrated helps you pee as much as you should and keeps your urine an ideal clear to pale yellow color. When your urine is dark yellow or even light brown, it is a serious sign that you aren’t drinking enough water and have “concentrated” urine where bacteria is more likely to grow. However, simply drinking more water is not a foolproof method to prevent UTIs. Habits like changing out of wet clothes when you can, switching to breathable cotton underwear, peeing after sex, and avoiding harsh substances like certain soaps can also help prevent infections.

Infographic of a urine color chart that explains what normal hydrated to dehydrated pee looks like, and what colors are signs of a UTI.

5. Myth: All UTIs are painful

While UTIs commonly cause symptoms like pain or burning during urination, not all UTIs are intensely painful. The severity of pain varies from individual to individual, and some people may only experience mild discomfort or pressure as opposed to sharp pain. Some people, including people who are pregnant, don’t experience any symptoms with UTIs. It's important to be aware of any changes in how much you are peeing or if you have any discomfort, no matter how severe, and seek medical care for diagnosis and treatment.

Infographic of common UTI symptoms with icons

Before you search for cure-all UTI remedies on TikTok, make an appointment with a trusted healthcare provider. At Hey Jane, we can help you with an accurate diagnosis and a safe, effective UTI treatment.

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Written by

Abbi Havens (MSW)

Abbi (she/her) is an Austin-based writer and editor with a passion for queer theory, sexuality, health, and culture. She received her master's degree with a concentration in LGBTQIA+ Sexual Health and Education Interventions from Washington University in St. Louis.

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