Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common bacterial infections in women.
UTIs can be very painful and uncomfortable, especially if they become recurrent or chronic. It’s hard to talk about this problem with others because it is embarrassing and awkward.
What is the urinary tract?
The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the body’s liquid waste products. The urinary tract includes the following parts:
- Kidneys: These small organs are located on the back of your body, just above the hips. They are the filters of your body — removing waste and water from your blood. This waste becomes urine.
- Ureters: The ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to your bladder.
- Bladder: A sac-like container, the bladder stores your urine before it leaves the body.
- Urethra: This tube carries the urine from your bladder to the outside of the body.
How common are UTIs?
Urinary tract infections are quite prevalent, affecting one out of every five women at some point in their lives. UTIs are more frequent in women, although they can also affect men, the elderly, and children.
Urinary tract infections affect one to two percent of youngsters. Urinary tract infections account for 8 million to 10 million doctor visits each year.
Who can get a UTI?
Urinary tract infections can affect anyone, but they are more frequent in women. Females’ urethras (tubes that carry urine out of the body) are shorter and closer to the anus, which is where E. coli germs thrive.
In addition, older persons are more likely to develop cystitis. This higher risk could be attributed to incomplete bladder emptying.
This can be caused by a number of medical issues, such as an enlarged prostate or a bladder prolapse (a condition where the bladder falls or slips out of its usual position).
If you have recurrent urinary tract infections, your doctor may order tests to rule out other health issues that could be contributing to your infections, such as diabetes or an abnormal urinary system.
People who have a lot of UTIs are sometimes given low-dose antibiotics for a while to keep the infection from coming back.
This careful approach to treating repeated UTIs is due to the risk of developing antibiotic resistance and contracting additional infections, such as C. diff colitis. This procedure is only utilized occasionally.
What’s the difference between a urinary tract infection (UTI) and a bladder infection (cystitis)?
A urinary tract infection is a broader term for an infection of the urinary tract. Your urinary system is divided into several sections. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects the entire urinary tract.
A bladder infection, often known as cystitis, is a type of infection that affects the bladder. Bacteria gets into the bladder and produces inflammation in this infection.
Urinary tract infections may not always progress to bladder infections. One of the most essential reasons to treat a UTI as soon as symptoms appear is to prevent the infection from spreading.
The infection can extend to your kidneys as well as your bladder, making it a more difficult condition than a UTI.
What causes UTI?
UTI bloating occurs when bacteria infect the bladder or urethra, causing inflammation in these areas. The infection causes an increase in urine production, which leads to more frequent urination and increased pressure on your bladder.
This causes the kidneys to produce excess fluid, which gets stored in your body’s tissues as extra water weight.
Though urethral and bladder infections are the most prevalent, bacteria can also migrate up the ureters and affect your kidneys.
E. coli, a bacterium ordinarily found in the intestines, is responsible for more than 90% of bladder infection (cystitis) cases.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
A urinary tract infection causes the lining of the urinary tract to become red and irritated (inflammation), which may produce some of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the side (flank), abdomen, or pelvic area
- Pressure in the lower pelvis
- Weight gain
- Frequent need to urinate (frequency), urgent need to urinate (urgency), and Incontinence (urine leakage)
- Painful urination (dysuria) and blood in the urine
- The need to urinate at night
- Abnormal urine color (cloudy urine) and strong or foul-smelling urine
Other viral UTI symptoms that may be associated with a urinary tract infection include:
- Pain during sex
- Penis pain
- Flank (side of the body) pain or lower back pain
- Fever (temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and chills
- Mental changes or confusion
- Stress, depression or anxiety
How to diagnose UTIs
To identify a urinary tract infection, your doctor will do the following tests:
- Urinalysis: This test looks for red blood cells, white blood cells, and germs in the urine. The presence of white and red blood cells in your urine can suggest the presence of an illness.
- Urine culture: A urine culture is used to identify the bacteria that are present in your urine. This is an important exam because it aids in determining the best course of action.
If your infection does not respond to therapy or if you keep getting infections, your doctor may do the following tests to check for disease or injury in your urinary tract:
- Ultrasound: Sound waves provide an image of the interior organs in this exam. This test is performed on top of your skin, is painless, and usually does not require any prior preparation.
- Cystoscopy: Special equipment (cystoscope) with a lens and a light source is used to look within the bladder through the urethra.
- CT scan: A sort of X-ray that takes cross-sections of the body and is another imaging exam (like slices). This technique is far more accurate than standard X-rays.
Treatment of UTIs
A urinary tract infection must be treated. Antibiotics are medications that kill germs and help the body fight infection.
Antibiotics are commonly used to treat infections of the urinary tract. Your doctor will choose the drug that is most effective against the bacteria that is causing your infection.
UTI antibiotics that are widely used include:
- Sulfonamides are a kind of sulfonamide (sulfa drugs)
- Bactrim® is a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole
- Quinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin [Cipro®])
It’s critical that you take the drug according to your healthcare provider’s instructions. If your symptoms go away and you feel better, don’t stop taking the antibiotic.
It is possible that the infection will return if the full course of antibiotics is not taken.
If you have a history of recurrent urinary tract infections, you may be given an antibiotic prescription to take as soon as symptoms appear.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for other patients to take every day, every other day, or after sexual activity to avoid infection.
If you have a history of frequent UTIs, talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you.
Further complications that can arise from a UTI
Antibiotics are a simple way to treat a urinary tract infection. This type of infection can escalate to a more dangerous infection, such as a kidney infection, if it isn’t treated or if the medicine is stopped too soon.
A further complication that can arise from a UTI is a kidney infection, which is also known as pyelonephritis.
Signs and symptoms of a kidney infection include nausea, fever, back pain, vomiting, and fatigue.
If you notice these signs or have been suffering from a UTI for several days without any improvement then see your doctor immediately to prevent further complications with your kidneys.
Can you become resistant to the use of antibiotics to treat a UTI?
Antibiotics are commonly used to treat urinary tract infections, but your body might become accustomed to them (UTI). This occurs in persons who have a lot of infections.
The infection evolves and becomes more difficult to fight with each UTI and the use of medications to treat it. This is referred to as an infection that is resistant to antibiotics.
If you suffer frequent UTIs, your healthcare professional may recommend various therapies as a result. These could include the following:
- Waiting: Your doctor may advise you to keep an eye on your symptoms and wait. You may be advised to consume plenty of fluids (particularly water) during this time in order to “flush out” your system.
- Intravenous treatment: If your UTI is resistant to antibiotics or the infection has spread to your kidneys, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. The medication will be injected directly into your vein (intravenously). You will be prescribed medications for a period of time after you return home in order to completely eliminate the illness.
Best ways to treat a UTI
There are many ways to get rid of a UTI. The obvious and quickest way is to visit your doctor and have them prescribe a course of antibiotics, but this is not for everyone as it can cause further problems.
In the meantime, you can implement some of these changes to help your UTI treatment:
- drink lots of water
- avoid caffeine and alcohol
- eat well-balanced meals with plenty of fiber from vegetables or fruits that also contain vitamin C
- take over the counter medications such as ibuprofen for pain relief
- try natural remedies like cranberry juice or apple cider vinegar to help make it easier on your bladder and kidneys
How can I prevent having a UTI in the future?
If you’ve had a UTI before, there’s a good risk you’ll have one again in the future. In fact, one-third of women who have had a UTI will have another one within six months.
So, what can you do to help prevent urinary tract infections? Fortunately, there are a variety of non-medication options for preventing UTIs from returning.
These are some ideas that may help prevent UTIs:
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty
- Practice good hygiene
- Reduce your intake of coffee, alcohol, and sugary drinks
- Avoid douching
- Avoid using perfumed menstrual products
- Use mild (or no) soap when cleaning your genital area
- Wipe front to back when using the bathroom
- Change menstrual and incontinence pads often
- Change your urination habits – more frequent and take your time to empty completely
- Empty your bladder after sex
- Only use clean hands or sex toys on your genitals (especially if they have touched your anus or anal area)
- Avoid using spermicides – use water-based lubricants instead
- Change your birth control
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing
Benefits can also be found in taking a daily supplement such as:
- Vitamin D
Quite frequently, a healthcare professional will recommend taking a probiotic alongside your antibiotics as the best form of treatment.
The best way to prevent recurring urinary tract infections is through consistent hydration, which can be done by drinking plenty of water every day.
Drinking cranberry juice may also help you avoid future bladder issues by inhibiting bacteria from sticking to your urethra walls.
Making a few small changes to the way you live can make all the difference and help you claim back a pain-free life.
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