It’s a blinding, searing pain that can immobilize the strongest of women, the dreaded Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Nowadays, it’s hard to find a woman who hasn’t clutched the toilet paper roll or been rendered speechless trying to pee. If the doctor should ask, it’s a pain factor 10 (that would be a male 1,000). We all remember our first UTI (it’s not as cute as it sounds); mine was in college, and I ended up in the hospital with a kidney infection. If I had known, I would have treated the damn thing sooner. Since then, UTIs have been an unpredictable part of my life, and for years, I have been looking for a treatment program (like many other women) that, at the very least, helps me manage the situation.

I thought having children would help, but I had two C- sections so nothing ‘rearranged’ my lady parts. I still suffer 2-3 a year on average. I feel cursed. I get them randomly, no rhyme or reason. I have tried everything from drinking German tea that tasted like a powdered boiled egg to stripping my tastebuds with pure cranberry juice. However, in the end, I end up on antibiotics because once you have been hospitalized with a kidney infection, you don’t ever want to go back. My pet peeve is when people say not to take too many antibiotics; reminder, the pain factor is a solid 10.

Years ago, I would be forced to wait for treatment through an excruciating night. Then I had to wait longer for my OB-GYN to open and finally pee on a stick before getting the drugs. Every hour after the first twinge, the pain exponentially increased tenfold. Eventually, I began stockpiling Cipro, never finishing my recommended dose. Then I got my dad, a doctor, to start calling in scripts from Ohio but he wasn’t comfortable with it. I squirreled away pain meds from surgeries like hospital-grade dosages of Ibuprofen and oxy. I peed AZO (see sidebar), an over-the-counter treatment, like a champ turning my toilet bowl into a reddish, orange Jell-O color, scaring my husband. I traveled a couple of times without meds and learned my lesson after dragging everyone to Urgent Care on vacation. Eventually, I started perusing Canadian websites looking for black market Cipro … don’t judge, it’s an antibiotic for God’s sake. I acted like a desperate housewife who had to have it, and I knew something had to change.

I finally went to Urologist Dr. Bruce Fariss, Lower Keys Urology, who offers a full battery of tests to determine a cause. Unfortunately, mine has none, it’s just how my lady parts are built. Dr. Fariss was gentle and kind with my desperation and the first to say I didn’t have to suffer anymore. He has given me enough Cipro to have on hand, and he knows I am smart enough to know when I need it. I wish I had gone sooner. So take heart, ladies. Some Medical professionals who can help, just ask.

Dr. Kris Kennedy (Womankind): A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract. Antibiotics are required for successful treatment. Symptoms of pain, frequency, and urgency should always be evaluated by a medical professional. Untreated urinary tract infection can result in spread to the kidneys resulting in severe back pain, fever and the need for hospitalization. Some women who have these symptoms do not have at UTI. They have chlamydia or gonorrhea or genital herpes, so an evaluation is important. More than 60% of all women will have a least one UTI in their lifetime. 3-5% of all women will have multiple UTI’s.  Many women with recurrent UTI’s can be successfully treated with home urine stick testing and a prescription for three days of antibiotics to use whenever they have their classic UTI symptoms and test positive on the dipstick. Women who are older with multiple UTI’s, women who have kidney infections, and women with persistent blood in their urine should be referred to a urologist. 

Dr. Bruce Fariss (Lower Keys Urology): Over the counter drugs such as AZO or Cystex (both pyridium) can help coat the bladder and decrease burning, and Tylenol or ibuprofen during a UTI. A Urologist can evaluate for underlying causes of infection which can help prevent stones, tumors, blockages in urinary system, etc.  

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Hays Blinckmann is an oil painter, author of the novel “In The Salt,” lover of all things German including husband, children and Bundesliga. She spends her free time developing a font for sarcasm, testing foreign wines and failing miserably at home cooking.