Viagra: The Cystitis Connection

You’ve heard that Viagra can reignite a dormant love life (if erectile dysfunction’s been the cause). But did you know that, as a result, more older women are experiencing the kind of burning discomfort once considered a young woman’s problem: “honeymoon cystitis,” or urinary tract infections (UTIs) brought on by the friction of sexual intercourse.

The connection came to light recently when three doctors in Covington, GA, noticed a rise in UTI complaints among women patients between the ages of 55 and 75. “We checked our records and found that every one of their spouses had been given a prescription for Viagra,” says Henry Patton, MD, one of the physicians. “Out of 100 men who got Viagra, 15 of their wives came to us with cystitis.” Since their observation was published last fall (letter, New England Journal of Medicine, Sept 3, 1998), they’ve heard from other doctors — and women with UTIs — across the country who’ve also noted this side effect.

The symptoms: A frequent urge to urinate; burning pain and just a scant trickle when you do; passing blood with the urine.

The cause: Friction during lovemaking can nudge ever-present bacteria into the opening of a woman’s urethra. From there, it’s just a short distance for the bacteria to travel to the bladder, where infection can easily develop.

It’s possible that older women may be even more susceptible because they’re also likely to produce less vaginal lubrication.

What you can do: Drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily (even some just a few minutes before making love). Staying hydrated increases urine flow, which flushes harmful bacteria from your bladder. And be sure to empty your bladder immediately after intercourse.

If you do get a UTI: See your doctor – especially if you experience chills, nausea, vomiting, or lower back pain. You may need an antibiotic to prevent kidney problems. Also, abstain from intercourse when UTI symptoms are present to prevent the infection from getting worse, Dr. Patton advises.

Sip a berry remedy: Cranberry or blueberry juice can prevent the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections from sticking to the walls of the bladder. Since cranberry juice can be an irritant for some women, you may want to dilute it with a little water.

What your partner can do: A man should mention the sex-UTI connection to his partner, so she can take preventive steps. “This is both partners’ responsibility,” notes Dr. Patton.

Quick Tip: Quench that UTI. A glass of water every hour will help flush out the bacteria.

What you have in your mind?