A urinary tract infection (UTI) is divided into upper urinary tract infections (pyelonephritis) and lower urinary tract infections (cystitis), urethra (urethritis), and prostate (prostatitis). Furthermore, infections can spread from one area to another.
The most common cause of cystitis and pyelonephritis is bacteria. Non-bacterial pathogens include fungi (like candida), mycobacteria, viruses, and parasites. Patients with weakened immune systems, diabetes mellitus, obstructions or structural abnormalities in the urinary tract, or recent instrumental procedures on the urinary tract are more likely to contract non-bacterial pathogens. Among 20- to 50-year-old adults, females are about 50 times more likely than males to develop urinary tract infections. The most common urinary tract infections among women in this age group are cystitis and pyelonephritis. Men in the same age group are usually affected by urethritis or prostatitis.
Risk factors for developing a urinary tract infection in women include the following factors:
- Sexual contact;
- Antibiotic use;
- New sexual partner throughout the year;
- History of urinary tract infections in 1st degree female relatives;
- History of recurrent urinary tract infections;
- First-onset urinary tract infection at an early age.
A urine sample is tested in the laboratory for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Women who have experienced a UTI may be able to recognize their symptoms as indicators of infection as they progress. The reality is, UTIs can be asymptomatic, especially among those over the age of 60. It's best to consult your OB/GYN about what to do next.
Recognizing the Symptoms of a UTI
UTIs can sometimes easily disappear on their own, since the body's immune system flushes out bacteria abundant in the urine. Whenever things don't seem to improve, your physician will collect a urine sample for analysis. You will be prescribed an antibiotic that deals with the strain of bacteria that caused the UTI.
These are the most common symptoms of urinary tract or bladder infections:
Urination that causes pain or burning
Initially, this might appear pretty mild. However, pain and discomfort are inevitable as the infection worsens.
Bathroom urges are frequent
The irritated and inflamed bladder and urethra cause you to need to go to the bathroom more often than usual. It usually means that you will feel pain/burning more often. UTIs can also lead to incontinence, causing leaking. As soon as you leak, change your underwear to prevent bacteria or fungi from growing around the urethra.
Bloody or cloudy urine with an unpleasant smell
If you notice the smell or cloudiness of your urine is stronger or worse than usual, you should consult your doctor. It is bacteria and white blood cells doing that. The irritated tissues can also result in blood in the urine during UTIs.
The bladder, pelvis, and lower back are inflamed or painful
Due to increased inflamed conditions in the pelvis, UTIs can cause cramping and tenderness, just as PMS does.
Shivering, fever, or chills
The immune system works overtime to deal with bladder infections, so you may experience a fever, chills, or a shaky sensation. It is also possible to feel some upset in your stomach.
When suspecting UTI
- First, you should talk to your OB/GYN and see what they recommend.
- Observe and wait some time. A doctor may recommend you watch or wait depending on your health history and symptoms. At this time you should:
- Increase your fluid intake;
- If you're in pain, take an OTC medicine;
- Support your urinary tract with supplements (some studies suggest an increase in vitamin C with bioflavonoids or cranberry pills);
- Maintain a healthy immune system by getting enough rest and eating nutritious foods;
- Sample your urine. You can typically submit a urine sample to the lab right away when your physician orders it. A physician will discuss treatment options with you after getting a response within a day or less;
- Take antibiotics specifically for your condition.
How to prevent future UTIs
It is estimated that nearly half of all women will experience one at some point, but there are things you can do in order to minimize your risk:
- In order to avoid getting e coli from your rectum into your urethra, always wipe from front to back;
- Consume plenty of water to stay hydrated;
- Ensure your underwear is 100% cotton and change it daily;
- Consult your physician if you use spermicide, unlubricated condoms, or diaphragms since they can all increase your risk of UTIs;
- Immediately after having sex, go pee to flush out any foreign matter;
- Rather than taking a bath, consider taking a shower or washing your body before soaking in the tub;
- Use only unscented products to keep your urethra from being irritated;
- Speak to your physician about probiotics for your urinary tract and other supplements that can enhance it.