Urinary Tract Infections Overview
Do you have the urge to urinate more often than usual? Do you only release a few drops when you do? When you go to urinate, do you feel a burning sensation or severe pain when you go? These could be symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTI).
This is a bacterial infection that affects your urinary tract. The contamination occurs when bacteria, mostly E.coli, get into the urinary tract.
Urinary tract infections may cause the following conditions:
- Urethritis – infection of the urethra
- Cystitis – infection of the bladder
- Pyelonephritis – infection of the kidneys
- Abscess – a buildup of pus in your urinary tract
The American Urological Association reported that more than 8 million visits to doctors every year is about a UTI. It can affect both men and women, but women are much more at risk of getting the infection at least once.
You likely have a UTI if you experience a cluster of the following –
- Pain in the lower abdomen pelvic area that may radiate to the lower back
- Frequent urination
- Pain or burning sensation when passing urine
- Only a few drops of urine come out even when there’s a strong urge to urinate
- Urine has a foul odour and looks cloudy
- Nausea and vomiting
UTI Causes and Risk Factors
Different species of bacteria live in certain parts of your body like your skin, rectum, and vagina. In these regions, these organisms, in naturally occurring numbers don’t cause a problem. However, there are instances when they reach your urinary tract system, which results in an infection.
There are also other factors that may increase your risk of getting a UTI.
- Gender – Women are more likely to get UTI because their urethras are shorter than men. Women also go through hormonal changes. When they reach the menopausal stage, they produce less estrogen, which increases the chances of contracting a UTI.
- Birth Control – Women who use contraceptive diaphragms are prone to UTI. Women whose male partners use condoms with spermicidal foam during sexual intercourse are also at higher risk.
- Urinary Tract Problems – Anatomic problems involving the urinary tract such as diverticula can increase your chances of getting a UTI. Any blockage that interferes with urination will also increase your chances of getting infected.
- Weak Immune System – Immunocompromised individuals, such as those with diabetes, are at higher risk of UTIs because their body is less able to fight off infection.
• Catheter Use – People who are confined to the hospital and are using a tube to empty their bladder are at increased risk, too.
Visit Your Doctor
In some instances, mild cases of UTI will go away without medical intervention. However, it’s always recommended to contact your health care provider when you notice the symptoms of a UTI.
Your family doctor or clinic can help with the diagnosis and treatment of UTIs. However, if you keep on getting UTIs, they may refer you to a urologist. They may ask you to see a nephrologist if your UTIs develop into kidney infections.
A simple UTI can be treated by taking antibiotics for three days. You should also increase your water intake to help eliminate the bacteria from your body. Avoid drinking alcoholic drinks, soda, and coffee; and use a heating pad to soothe the pain in your lower abdomen.
For complicated UTIs, oral antibiotic treatment may last for up to two weeks. In some cases, intravenous antibiotic therapy may also be administered.
Just as there are factors that increase your chances of getting a UTI, there are things you can do to decrease your odds, too.
- Drink plenty of water
- Take vitamin C to boost your immune system – cranberry juice or supplements are an excellent choice
- Urinate right away if you feel the urge
- Females must wipe their genital area from front to back
- Use cotton underwear
- Empty your bladder after sexual intercourse
- Use a different birth control method than diaphragms
Knowing the symptoms and understanding the causes can help lower your risk of contracting a urinary tract infection. If you notice the signs of a UTI, consult your doctor right away so that you can get the right treatment.