Do You Think You Have a UTI? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is the second most common bacterial infection. It causes over 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers annually. Approximately 12% of men and 60% of women will have at least one UTI during their lifetime. Having a UTI does not mean that your life is at risk, as deaths from the infection are very low, but it needs to be addressed immediately to avoid further complications.
Being aware of the causes, risk factors, and symptoms of the disease will help you diagnose and treat it earlier.
What Is a UTI or Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter into any part of your urinary system, including the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. A UTI in the bladder, namely cystitis, is the most common one. A UTI in the kidneys and urethra is known as pyelonephritis and urethritis, respectively.
What Causes a UTI?
Intercourse increases women’s risk for developing this condition. Almost 80% of premenopausal women with a UTI have had intercourse within the last 24 hours. Besides intercourse, there are other activities, pre-existing conditions, and products that can cause a UTI, including:
- Kidney Stones: They can block your urinary tract and hold urine in, giving bacteria enough time to grow and eventually causing a UTI.
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water reduces urination, which helps to flush out the bacteria. With the accumulation of bacteria, you may get a UTI.
- Diarrhea or Constipation: Emptying your bladder when constipated can be difficult, so bacteria will have time to grow and cause an infection. Also, bacteria excreted from diarrhea can enter your urethra and can cause a UTI.
- Hygiene Products: Since having too much moisture in one’s tampon or pad can serve as the perfect setting for bacteria growth, it is essential to change your feminine products frequently during your periods to avoid developing a UTI.
- Holding Urine: Not urinating for 6 hours or more helps bacteria grow in the bladder, causing an infection.
- Birth Control: The hormones in the birth control pills cause your normal vaginal bacteria to fluctuate, increasing your risk for a UTI. Also, using spermicide and diaphragms makes you more susceptible to infection.
- Diabetes: For those with uncontrolled diabetes, their bladder does not empty and may become a breeding ground for bacteria. The accumulation of bacteria increases their risk for a UTI.
Other factors that contribute to a UTI infection include:
- A spinal cord injury
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Having a shorter urethra
- Nerve damage around the bladder
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of UTIs?
UTI symptoms vary depending on which part of the urinary tract is infected.
Symptoms of a lower tract UTI (affects urethra and bladder) include:
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Burning with urination
- Increased frequency and urgency of urination
- Pelvic pain or rectal pain
- Urine that smells bad
Symptoms of an upper tract UTI (affects the kidneys) include:
- Pain and tenderness in the sides and upper back
Men and women share the same symptoms for an upper tract UTI. However, a lower tract UTI may cause rectal pain in men and pelvic pain in women in addition to other common signs.
Are Females More Prone to UTIs Than Males?
Women are 30 times more likely to get UTIs than men. Also, 4 out of 10 women with a UTI will have another one within six months. Women are more susceptible to UTI infections because women’s urethra (a tube from the bladder that passes urine out of the body) is shorter than men’s. Also, their urethral opening is closer to the anus and the vagina, making it easier for the bacteria to enter into the bladder. For men, an enlarged prostate gland, unprotected anal intercourse, and any health condition that affects the immune system can increase their risk for UTIs.
What Are the Reasons for Recurrent UTIs?
Recurrent UTIs contribute to a large percentage of UTIs reported in urologic practices.
The reasons for a recurrent UTI are:
- A chronic health condition or surpassed immune system
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurologic diseases
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Scar tissue or alteration in anatomy resulting from a urinary tract surgery
How Our Urgent Care Centers Diagnose and Treat a UTI?
At FCCMG, we will perform a urine test, also known as urinalysis, to determine whether you have a UTI. This test involves examining your urine sample for its appearance, concentration, and number of healthy white blood cells and red blood cells as opposed to bacteria counts. Abnormal results may indicate a disease or illness. For example, a UTI infection can make your urine look cloudy or milky instead of clear. We may perform other tests or recommend a treatment plan if we detect any signs of UTI.
What If I Leave a UTI Untreated?
An untreated UTI can spread the infection to the kidneys and other parts of the body, causing:
- Fever and chills
- Pain in the back
- Reduced kidney function
- Kidney failure in people who already have kidney problems
- Sepsis, a life-threatening condition
How to Prevent a UTI?
Follow these tips to prevent a UTI:
- Drink Water – Drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses a day to flush bacteria out of your urinary tract.
- Vitamin C – Taking a vitamin C supplement or consuming leafy greens and other fruits rich in vitamin C can make your urine more acidic, preventing bacterial growth.
- Empty Your Bladder – Emptying your bladder helps to flush out UTI-causing bacteria. Urinate frequently if you suffer from recurrent UTIs.
- Avoid Bladder Irritants – Beverages such as alcohol, coffee, and carbonated soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners can irritate your bladder and make it difficult to retain normal flora in the urine, causing a UTI.
- Practice Good Habits – Make sure to clean your genitals before and after intercourse and avoid bubble baths and fragrant soaps, sprays, and douches. Wear loose-fitted underwear and make sure to change sweaty workout clothes.
- Apply Heat – Use a heating pad or warm blanket to soothe painful urination, topical pain, or irritation in your private area.
Learn more about Prevention Ways of UTI.
When to See a Doctor?
A mild UTI will go away on its own without medical treatment. However, if you are experiencing persistent UTI symptoms, contact your doctor right away. Waiting too long to receive treatment can lead to UTI complications such as severe kidney and lower tract infections.
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