The classic home remedy is cranberry juice, which makes the urine more acid and also seems to make it difficult for bacteria to stick to the bladder wall. Some women drink it as a preventive measure; others use it when they feel the first symptoms of an infection coming on. Blueberry juice also works well, but is not as readily available. Cranberry tablets, with a high concentration of the active ingredient, are available in health food stores. Some women take vitamin C, which also makes the urine more acidic. Drinking a lot of water can help. Try warm tub baths to relieve the discomfort of an infection or a heating pad to relieve abdominal pain.

Other herbal preparations have been proposed, though cranberry juice or supplements are probably most effective. Among the others are buchu (any of three species from the genus Barosma) and bearberry (uva ursi), which are used in herbal teas. Both are safe in moderate doses and may be effective, though no scientific studies have proved that they are.

How are urinary tract infections diagnosed?

In cases where the infection seems related to sexual activity, your caregiver may recommend urinalysis, which can be done in a doctor’s office or a medical laboratory. If you have a urinary tract infection, the test will probably show white blood cells and bacteria in the urine, both signs of infection.

Sometimes the next step in the diagnosis is a urine culture to reveal exactly which bacteria are causing the symptoms or to rule out other causes (for example sexually transmitted diseases, yeast infections, or vaginitis). Once the culprit has been identified, your care-giver will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic. If you have had Urinary tract infections in the past and your caregiver is familiar with your history, he or she may prescribe antibiotics without a urine culture. If you have a new sexual partner, your doctor may recommend a chlamydia test.

If your Urinary tract infections keep recurring, a urologist might do a “postvoid residual” test, which uses a catheter to make sure that the bladder empties completely. The physician may examine you to check that your urethra feels normal — for example, has no pouchings (diverticula). If these tests prove normal, an ultrasound might reveal anatomical irregularities in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra.

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