Do you experience discomfort when you urinate? If so, then you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Urinary tract infections occur in the urethra, bladder, and sometimes the kidneys. Although it does occur in some men, women have a 50% chance of developing a UTI at some point in their lives. Many of those women will likely develop more than one.
The cause of most UTIs is the result of bacteria attaching to the bladder or urethra, which is sometimes the result of sexual intercourse, but can also connect to female anatomy, birth control, pregnancy, or menopause.
There are a few common symptoms of a UTI, and UTIs are generally easy to treat and can clear up in a matter of days. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, then see a doctor before it becomes more severe.
1. Burning sensation during urination
One of the most common symptoms of a UTI is pain or a burning sensation when you urinate. If you are experiencing this symptom, then it is often a sign of a UTI but could also indicate a sexually transmitted disease. A doctor will need to conduct tests to determine the exact diagnosis.
There are three main types of urinary tract infection. The first is bladder infection. Also known as cystitis, this causes inflammation in the bladder and can also cause pain in the lower abdominal region. The second is a urethra infection. Also known as urethritis, this type of UTI affects the urethra, or the tube that carries urine away from the bladder. This can occur due to bacterial infection or STD and is usually treated with antibiotics. Lastly, there is a kidney infection. Known as pyelonephritis, a kidney infection can lead to permanent damage if left untreated. In addition to painful urination, you may also feel fatigue, fever, or pain in sides and upper back.
2. Persistent urge to urinate
Another very common symptom of a UTI is the persistent urge to urinate. There may be very little urine, and this is because bacteria infects the bladder or urethra and causes pain and discomfort.
Bacteria are incredibly helpful to our bodies, but certain bacteria are really only suited to live in a certain part of your body (like your gastrointestinal bacteria). When those bacteria try to relocate to other parts of your body such as your bladder (a normally sterile environment), an infection occurs. In fact, GI bacteria are often some of the main culprits in urinary tract infections.
3. Urine that is strong smelling, cloudy, or bloody
In addition to other symptoms such as painful and frequent urination, cloudy or bloody urine may be a sign of a UTI. Urine may also be very strong smelling. If your urine is cloudy or bloody, then you should make an appointment with a clinic to determine the cause.
When applied early, UTI treatment is a generally easy process. If you have a UTI and wait to seek treatment, then bacteria can spread to the kidneys and potentially cause systemic damage.
Men and women of any age can potentially get a urinary tract infection. Although there are some more common factors that can lead to UTIs such as sexual activity and pregnancy, there are many other risk factors.
Older adults become increasingly likely to develop a UTI.
Using a catheter exposes the urethra and bladder to bacteria.
The female urethra is much shorter than in males, making it naturally easier for bacteria to get into the bladder.
Urinary blockages such as kidney stones and certain kinds of cancers can cause urinary tract infections.
Certain types of birth control, namely spermicides and diaphragms, can sometimes lead to infection.
Some individuals are particularly prone to UTIs. Talk to a doctor about preventative measures.
Urinary tract infection treatment is usually a simple process. A doctor will conduct a urine test to determine if there is an infection. The doctor may conduct other tests to determine the cause, particularly if the is a risk of an STD. However, antibiotics usually treat UTIs.
You may have heard that cranberry extract can treat UTIs. Although there is some positive benefit to taking cranberry extract, it is not a substitution for antibiotics.
Cranberry has a unique property that prevents bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder and urethra. Studies have shown that people prone to UTIs who take cranberry extract regularly are less likely to develop UTIs than without it. However, if you develop UTI symptoms, then you need to seek medical treatment.
If the cause of the UTI is not bacterial, then there are other treatment options. Antiviral medications treat viral infections, and doctors use antifungals to treat fungal infections.
Many treatments work within a matter of days, but some more severe infections may take up to a few weeks to completely clear up.
Some individuals are simply prone to chronic urinary tract infections, and there are some preventative measures that may help you avoid infection .
Drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses) during the day, because frequent urination helps flush out bacteria. Avoid holding urine for long periods of time, and remember to urinate after sex. Use menstrual cups instead of tampons, because tampons can sometimes encourage bacterial growth.
Avoid perfumed products for the genital area. These can irritate the urethra and bladder. Take cranberry supplements that help prevent bacteria from clinging to the bladder walls. Lastly, consider changing birth control (unlubricated condoms, spermicides, and diaphragms) that increase your risk of a UTI.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then see a doctor as quickly as possible. Untreated UTIs can spread, and damage your body. Contact The Woman’s Clinic in Little Rock to schedule an appointment!