Infections can be prevented with care

Dear Dr. Gott: I am a 68-year-old female. I am now on medication for yet another urinary-tract infection. This is my fourth infection in four months. I have been to my family doctor twice and to urgent care twice because two happened over a weekend. The pressure, burning and hurting just seems to come on rapidly, along with running to the bathroom real often.
Some background information: I have had bronchitis, a colonoscopy, hernia repair and my right knee scoped. I got the hernia shortly after I had the colonoscopy.
Are there any preventive options I can practice, because I seem to be prone to these infections? I do not like taking antibiotics or any other medicine. I’m an active person who loves to walk and exercise moderately.
Would a urologist be able to diagnose the problem? I retrieved some information on the Internet. Is it true that certain items such as cheese, chocolate, spicy foods and dairy products are irritants?
Dear Reader: I am unsure if your physician treated you because of the classic symptoms you presented, or whether he or she requested a urine culture. That bit of information would be extremely helpful in putting the pieces together.
In any event, let’s take things a step at a time. Urinary-tract infections affect millions of people each year. Women are more prone than men, and infections typically involve the urethra and bladder. Urine is normally sterile and free of bacteria and/or viruses in a healthy person. The urethra carries urine from the bladder for passage out of the body. Infection occurs when organisms such as bacteria adhere to the opening of the urethra and multiply, resulting in infection. Most infections come from one single type of bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli), which ordinarily live within the colon. There are other micro-organisms, such as chlamydia and mycoplasma, that can cause a UTI, but they tend to be limited to the urethra and reproductive system. Symptoms of a UTI include a strong urge to urinate, hematuria (blood in the urine), a burning sensation and strong odor on urination. Chlamydia and mycoplasma can be sexually transmitted; in order to eradicate either, both partners will require medical treatment.
Your physician should have ordered a clean-catch urine and sensitivity specimen that should have been sent to your local hospital, unless he or she can test on the premises. The urine will be tested for red and white blood cells and bacteria. The bacteria will be cultured and tested against specific antibiotics to determine which one will be appropriate for eradication of the infection. The drug of choice and duration of treatment will be determined by what your specimen is sensitive to.
Speak with your physician about the possibility of low-dose antibiotics taken daily for six months or longer. If you are sexually active, you might take a single antibiotic dose following intercourse. Or take an antibiotic for a day or two when symptoms first appear. On the home front, drink plenty of water each day and supplement with 100 percent cranberry juice. Take showers instead of baths. Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches. Following urination, wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Bladder and Urinary Traction Infections.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092, or download an order blank from my Web site, Be sure to mention the title.