Why Won’t My UTI Go Away? Experts Say These 6 Habits Can Throw Your System Off

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Virtually every person with a vagina will experience a urinary tract infection at least once in their lives, in part because of biological reasons. The urethra of people with vaginas happens to be shorter than that of people with penises, and it's easier for bacteria from the anus to spread to the urethra. "Acute cystitis, aka a bladder infection, is one of the most common infections in women," Dr. Valeria Fabre, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, tells Bustle. "Based on the anatomy of the pelvis, women are at higher risk for urinary tract infections than men." If you experience a lot of UTIs, or they don't seem to go away, though, experts tell Bustle that certain habits may be part of the issue.

There are some conditions, Dr. Fabre tells Bustle, that can increase the likelihood of a UTI, like diabetes mellitus or a urinary tract that's easily blocked. However, if you don't have one of those conditions, and your UTIs still come often and stick around for a long time, the cause for their longevity may be in how you're treating them. "Recurrent infection is not uncommon," Dr. Fabre says. Depending on where your UTI comes from, treatment can be pretty swift; a simple bladder infection can be cured in three or so days with antibiotics. But if your UTI is sticking around, experts say these six habits may be part of the reason they won't go away.

1. You Don't Drink Enough Water

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A 2018 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine demonstrated that women who tend to get repeated UTIs that don't seem to go away can cut their risk of re-infection easily — by drinking more water. "The evidence shows that increased water intake (1.5 liters a day) prevents cystitis in pre-menopausal women," Dr. Fabre says. Hydration means you need to pass urine more often, which helps clear out the infection from the bladder.

2. You Wipe Back To Front

Your UTIs might stick around or recur for a long time because of bacteria drifting from fecal matter into your bladder and urinary tract. It's always a good idea to maintain hygienic bathroom habits, Dr. Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, MD, an OB/GYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. "This includes wiping front to back to prevent fecal matter from getting to the vagina or urethra." That's one of the main causes of UTIs in the first place, so if you notice your UTIs recur frequently or are difficult to cure, be mindful about how you're wiping.

3. You Don't Finish Your Antibiotics

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When you've been officially diagnosed with a UTI and given a short dose of antibiotics, it's important to stick to the full course, even if it's inconvenient or you think you've recovered already.

"Once you have been diagnosed with a UTI, it is most important to finish the antibiotics that are prescribed," Dr. Dixon-Shambley tells Bustle. "Often, people feel better before their antibiotic course is completed and may decide to stop the antibiotics before the prescribed time, but this only puts them at risk for developing antibiotic-resistant infections or infections that can spread to the kidneys."

4. You Rely On Home Remedies

Most of us have heard of the value of cranberry juice as a good home remedy for acute cystitis, but it's not actually a scientifically supported idea. Cranberry juice and probiotics, Dr. Fabre says, don't have "robust data to support them" as UTI-fixers, even if everyone and their grandmother swears by them. A review of the science in 2012 found that for most people, cranberry juice was no better than no treatment at all. Talk to a doctor about the best way to treat your UTI issue so that you can tackle the problem early.

5. You Start Antibiotics For Recurrent UTIs Without Talking To A Doctor

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If you have recurrent UTIs, you might think it's a good idea to take antibiotics prophylactically, or all the time, to prevent any new infections emerging. However, making this decision without talking to your doctor about possible underlying issues may make your UTIs worse.

"It is important to understand that antibiotics induce resistance," Dr. Fabre says. "A decision to start antibiotics to prevent recurrent cystitis must be done with a specialist to weigh the risks and benefits, and should be reserved for situations when non-antibiotic strategies have failed."

6. You Delay Getting Treatment

One of the key elements of effective UTI treatment, say experts, is time. "If you think you have a UTI, it is most important to contact your physician to be treated immediately before the infection worsens," Dr. Dixon-Shambley tells Bustle. Don't let the symptoms hang around for a few days; the infection can spread to other areas of your body, such as your kidneys, and cause greater issues. The doctor may not suggest antibiotics, but a treatment plan of some kind is necessary.

Getting regular UTIs that persist despite your best efforts? A review of your habits and a visit to your physician will likely sort it out — and help diagnose any medical issues that could be making you more susceptible.