Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are any type of infection that occurs somewhere along the urinary system, whether it be the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. According to the Mayo Clinic, UTIs are extremely common, with over 3 million cases occurring annually in the United States alone. Most times, the infection takes place in the bladder or urethra, and can be treated rather conservatively. However, when a UTI reaches the kidneys, there can be serious consequences. That’s why it is important to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatments of UTIs so that you can avoid this preventable complication.
What are the signs of a UTI?
UTIs don’t always exhibit observable indications of infection, which can make them somewhat difficult to notice. While UTIs can sometimes resolve on their own, knowing the signs can help with prevention and quick and painless treatment. The most common indicators of a UTI include:
- Burning sensation upon urination
- Frequent urination
- Urine that is cloudy or reddish-pink (aside from menstruation)
- Strong smelling urine
- Pain in the pelvis for women, or the rectum for men
Depending on where in the urinary system the infection has taken place, more specific symptoms can occur. For instance, when the infection reaches the kidneys (otherwise known as acute pyelonephritis), pain is often felt in the upper back and hips, and can be accompanied by fever, nausea, or vomiting. However, the above symptoms are generally a good indication that an infection is present and needs to be monitored, lest it get more serious.
How are UTIs caused?
As mentioned previously, most UTIs occur in either the bladder or the urethra. A vast majority of UTIs are caused by Escherichia coli, or E. coli, which is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract. Sexually transmitted infections (STI), such as chlamydia, can also contribute to UTIs. While these are the most common ways to get a UTI, other risk factors can include:
- Poor personal hygiene
- Some forms of contraception
- Using a catheter
- Immobilization for long periods of time
Do UTIs only affect women?
It is true that UTIs occur more frequently in women than they do in men; it is estimated that about 40% of women will get UTIs at some point in their life, while only about 12% of men will experience the same. Because of anatomy, women’s urethras are closer to the anus than those of men, which can lead to some accidental infection. Additionally, because women’s urethras are so close to the vagina, STIs are also more likely to infect it during intercourse, leading to a UTI.
That being said, anyone can get a UTI. Blockages in the urinary tract can lead to infection, and kidney stones and enlarged prostates can contribute to blockages. These afflictions are most commonly found in older men. Additionally, diabetes can impair the immune system and kidneys, which can result in a UTI. Circumcised men are also less likely to get a UTI than uncircumcised men.
How can I prevent or treat a UTI?
Preventing a UTI isn’t too complicated. Good bathroom hygiene is a must. It is encouraged that people, especially those with vaginas, should wipe from front to back after using the bathroom so as to avoid cross contamination. People should always make sure to urinate after sex, as this will clear out blockages. It is also suggested that you drink a lot of water! and good hydration are the best defenses against UTIs. If your urine is largely diluted with water, then bacteria can be flushed away before it has time to establish itself as an infection.
UTI treatment almost always includes a course of antibiotics, depending on what type of UTI you have and how long it has been present. There are several things you can do at home before seeing a doctor in order to alieve some of the pain and symptoms associated with the UTI. According to the Mayo Clinic, “There’s some indication that cranberry products, in either juice or tablet form, may have infection-fighting properties.” However, it is important to note that these results are not conclusive. Many people find placing a hot-pad on the abdomen/pelvic area helps with some of the discomfort. Lastly, just like preventing the UTI to begin with, drinking a lot of water can make painful urination a little less irritating.
When should I see a doctor for a UTI?
In general, if you suspect you have a UTI, you should see a doctor. As stated before, one of the most common treatments for UTIs is the use of antibiotics, which are prescription only. If there is blood in your urine, or if urination is particularly painful, you should visit your doctor right away. Waiting for a UTI to go away on its own may seem tempting, but left untreated, they can result in severe kidney problems. If you experience fever, chills, and severe vomiting/nausea as well as urinary issues, a trip to the emergency room may be required.
Healthpointe is committed to the health and wellness of our patients. If you suspect you have a UTI, you can make an appointment with one of our doctors here or give us a call at (888) 824-5580.