There are all kinds of ailments that can make you feel like you're living in the 10th level of hell: flu, sinus headaches, lower back pain, paper cuts. But the one that has a degree of suffering all its own is urinary tract infections. The symptoms of a UTI are the "Baby Shark" of illnesses: When you have one, it's pretty much the only thing on your mind until the discomfort goes away.
As the Mayo Clinic explained, a urinary tract infection refers to any infection that affects the urinary system. A lower urinary tract infection affects the bladder and/or the urethra (where the urine comes out); an upper UTI involves the kidneys and/or the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder). However, what we commonly think of as a UTI is a bladder infection, also known as cystitis.
Women are particularly at risk for UTIs, according to the National Institutes of Health's kidney, diabetes, and digestive disease division. A full 40 to 60 percent of us will get one in our lifetime. It's partly a matter of anatomy; our urethras are shorter than men's and closer to the rectum, making it easier for bacteria to enter the opening during sex or when using the bathroom. (Hence the advice you hear all the time about peeing after intercourse and wiping from front to back.) A recent French study of urinary tract infections in various countries suggests that UTIs are slightly more likely to happen in the summer.
But since we women are also prone to ignoring our health as we take care of all the other people in our lives, we may try to deny or downplay the symptoms of a urinary tract infection. It's a tactic that can backfire; untreated, cystitis can lead to more bladder infections or even kidney damage. So don't be a sufferer in silence: If you notice any of the symptoms below, seek medical help.