by Lynn Shapiro
, Writer | November 24, 2008
Patients worried about their bladder health have one more reason to have an extra helping of cranberries this Thanksgiving: The fruit could help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), according to The American Urological Association. (AUA)
Long used as a home remedy for simple UTIs, cranberries are useful in preventing these infections because the fruit's high acid content can help inhibit bacterial growth along the urinary tract, urologists say.
If left untreated, a simple UTI could spell trouble for the bladder and kidneys. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply in the urethra. The lining of the urethra becomes red and irritated, like a sore throat. If the infection in the urethra (urethritis) is left unchecked, bacteria can move deeper into the urinary tract to the bladder (cystitis) and throughout the ureters into the kidneys (pyelonephritis). Kidney infections are extremely dangerous and can lead to life-threatening conditions such as bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) if left untreated, AUA says.
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UTIs affect millions of people and account for more than 8 million doctor visits per year. Frequent, sometimes painful urination is the most painful symptom. Your urine may also be cloudy, or have a stronger odor than usual. In some cases, you may also have hematuria, or blood in the urine. Hematuria is a common UTI symptom, but may also be caused by a more serious problem in the urinary tract. It is important to get prompt medical attention if you have blood in your urine.
Urologists caution that cranberries might not help everyone and urge patients to seek treatment if they have UTI symptoms. Other methods of UTI prevention include proper hydration and judicious use of antibiotics prescribed by a physician. To avoid UTIs, you should not delay or refrain from urinating and should not rush when urinating. Retaining urine and not emptying your bladder completely can increase your risk of a UTI.