Urinary Tract Infections: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Urinary tract infections are a common health problem that affects millions of people every year.
Although urinary tract infections can be easily treated with antibiotics, many cases go undiagnosed and untreated because the symptoms are so similar to other conditions.
Bloating is a common symptom of urinary tract infections. When bacteria or other pathogens get into the bladder, they can cause inflammation which causes bloating, pain with urination, and more.
This guide will teach you everything there is to know about UTI symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention methods.
UTI and antibiotics
UTIs are very easy to treat with antibiotics but you should also make sure that your diet is supplemented by fluids, cranberry juice (which actually does help), and probiotics if it will not cure your infection fast enough.
Bear in mind that antibiotics also kill the good bacteria within our bodies, so it may be advisable to look at natural UTI remedies first, before taking antibiotics.
Symptoms of a UTI in the bladder or urethra can include:
- Pain or burning while urinating (dysuria)
- Needing to pee more than usual during the night (nocturia)
- Having to urinate more often
- Feeling like your bladder is still full after you urinate
- Cloudy or smelly urine
- Blood in your urine
- Pain in your lower belly or pain in the back
- Fatigue or weakness
- Confused or agitated (especially in older people)
- Incontinence that is worse than usual
- High temperature or feeling hot and shivery
- Very low temperature below 36oC
- In babies, crying more and not feeding well
If your UTI has spread to the kidneys, your UTI symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chills and night sweats
- Pain in the back, side, or abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) due to liver problems resulting from the UTI infection. This is rare, but it’s a sign that your immune system is responding very aggressively against kidney cells infected by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which causes about 25% of all cases of kidney infection.
- Urine may be very dark and concentrated (tea-colored) due to your kidneys trying to remove waste products from your blood as quickly as possible in order to fight off the infection.
Causes of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Bacteria from feces entering the urinary tract is the most common cause of UTIs.
The bacteria get into the body through the tube that drains pee (urethra).
The urethra in women is shorter than in men. Bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause illness as a result of this.
Bacteria can enter the bladder through a variety of sources, including:
- having sex
- stress, depression, and anxiety can reduce your immunity
- conditions that block the urinary tract – such as kidney stones
- conditions that make it difficult to fully empty the bladder – such as an enlarged prostate gland in men and constipation in children
- urinary catheters (a tube in your bladder used to drain urine)
- having a weakened immune system – for example, people with diabetes or people having chemotherapy
- not drinking enough fluids
- not keeping the genital area clean and dry
How to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Here are some home strategies that may help with your UTI:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking lots of fluids helps your body make urine. This can flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Fluids also keep you hydrated, which is helpful for fighting off an infection. Avoid fluids that could irritate your bladder, like alcohol and caffeine.
- Urinate frequently: Going to the bathroom frequently can help clear the bacteria from your bladder and urethra.
- Use heat: Gentle heat can reduce abdominal pain and discomfort. Consider using a hot water bottle or heating pad on your lower belly.
Taking over-the-counter medications can also help you feel better. While none of these medications can cure a UTI, they will help you feel better while your body works to clear it (either on its own or with antibiotics). Options include:
- NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve): Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like Advil and Aleve, can reduce pain and inflammation.
- Phenazopyridine hydrochloride (Azo, Uristat): These medications soothe the walls of your urethra and bladder, which can reduce pain, burning, and discomfort. Note that these medications should not be used for more than 2 days without talking to your provider. Using them for longer could cover up symptoms of a more serious infection.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol): This medication can help to reduce UTI pain.
Remember, if your symptoms are getting worse (or haven’t improved after 2 to 3 days), you should talk to your doctor about beginning antibiotics.
Though home remedies can make you feel better and possibly even encourage the UTI to go away on its own, none of them can cure an active UTI.
Even if you are taking an antibiotic, these cures can be beneficial – especially while you are waiting for the antibiotic to take action, which can take 1 to 2 days.
How to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
In order to prevent urinary tract infections from occurring or returning it is advisable to follow our Dos and Don’ts listed below:
- Wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
- Keep the genital area clean and dry
- Wash the skin around the vagina with water before and after sex
- Pee as soon as possible after sex
- Wash hands thoroughly after using the restroom
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Avoid diuretics like caffeine, alcohol, and soda because they all dehydrate you
- promptly change nappies or incontinence pads as soon as they are soiled
- Do not hold your pee in if you feel the urge to go
- Do not rush peeing – fully empty your bladder
- Do not use scented soap when washing sensitive areas
- Do not wear tight, synthetic underwear such as nylon
- Do not drink lots of alcohol drinks, as this may irritate your bladder
- Do not consume lots of sugary foods or drinks, as they may encourage bacteria to grow
- Do not use condoms or diaphragms with spermicidal lube on them – try non-spermicidal lube
Preventing reoccurring UTIs
If you have more than 3 UTIs in 1 year or 2 UTIs in 6 months, there are other things that may help prevent UTIs.
There is some evidence that women under 65 years old who keep getting UTIs may find it helpful to take:
- a supplement called D-mannose – this is not recommended for pregnant women
- cranberry products, such as juice or tablets
Speak to your doctor before taking any of these during pregnancy.
Please Note: Be aware that D-mannose and cranberry products can contain a lot of sugar.
Additional things to be aware of
To help ease the pain and discomfort caused via a UTI:
- take paracetamol up to 4 times a day to reduce pain and a high temperature – for people with a UTI, paracetamol is usually recommended over NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- you can give children liquid paracetamol
- rest and drink enough fluids so you pass pale urine regularly during the day, especially during hot weather
It’s important to follow the instructions on the packet so you know how much paracetamol you or your child can take, and how often.
- It may also help to avoid having sex until you feel better
- You cannot pass a UTI on to your partner, but sex may be uncomfortable
Please Note: Taking cystitis sachets or cranberry products has not been shown to help ease symptoms of UTIs.
Urinary tract infections are one of the most common urinary system-related problems. Stress, pregnancy, diabetes, sexual activity, and low immune systems can all lead to UTIs.
There are many different treatments for UTIs but prevention is the best medicine.
As with all conditions, it is always best to seek professional advice and then try a treatment that is suited to you as an individual.
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