Have you ever experienced a burning sensation while you urinate? Or have you ever felt like you needed to run to the restroom, "gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!" But when you get there to urinate, you really don't have to? Well, if so, you may have experienced a UTI, or urinary tract infection, and if so, don't worry, you're not alone. UTIs are among the most common infections in the United States, and they are much more common in women than in men. In fact, According to the National Institute of Health, 60% of women will experience a UTI at some point in her lifetime, but men can get them as well. It's very important to understand how to recognize urinary tract infection symptoms because they can potentially lead to serious complications. So today, we're going to talk about it. I'm going to give you:
- Definition of The Urinary Tract
- The Definition of A UTI
- Top 10 Symptoms of A Urinary Tract Infection
- How To Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
- When To Seek Professional Medical Care
- UTI Infection Treatment
What Is The Urinary Tract?
I'm Dr. Frita. I'm a board-certified kidney and high blood pressure specialist. Taking care of patients with UTIs is something I do every day in my Atlanta nephrology practice. In order to understand what a urinary tract infection is, you first must know exactly what is the urinary tract.
The urinary tract consists of your kidneys, which are those two bean-shaped organs located in your lower back, and in your flanks. It also consists of the ureters, which are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder is responsible for storing urine, and it is worth noting that the majority of urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur in this specific area, a condition commonly referred to as cystitis. The urethra is also a part of the urinary tract, and the urethra is a tube that leads from the bladder to the outside world. All of this makes up the urinary tract and urinary system.
Female Urinary System
Now, women do indeed get UTIs more frequently than men, and this is why. When you think about that urethra, that tube that connects the bladder to the outside world, for women, it travels a very short distance.
When considering bacteria, which are the most common cause of UTIs, it is also important to understand the journey they take to reach the bladder in men. In men, these bacteria must climb the entire length of the male organ, before finally reaching the bladder. For women, however, there's not that much of a distance, so indeed women do get UTIs more often than men.
What Is A Urinary Tract Infection?
By definition, a urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when there is an infection anywhere in the urinary system that I just described. Again, this includes the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. The urinary system is the body's drainage system for removing wastes and extra water.
Most frequently, the UTI is caused by a bacterium or bacteria such as E. coli, or Klebsiella, that climb up through the urethra, and they most often land in the bladder. The bacteria can get into the urethra and travel up to the bladder. Once in the bladder, the bacteria can multiply and cause a bladder infection or cystitis. However, the infection has the potential to ascend, reaching higher areas such as the ureters and even the kidneys.
When you have a UTI that is in the kidneys, it's called pyelonephritis, and that is actually an even more serious infection that can lead to kidney disease if it is not properly treated. You can also get fungal infections like yeast, especially in patients who are immunocompromised.
Top 10 Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
Here are the top 10 UTI signs and symptoms that you should really watch out for. It is important to note that in some cases, these symptoms may not be present or may be mild. It is always best to consult a doctor if you experience any concerns or discomfort. The most common symptoms include:
1. Pain When You Urinate
This is called dysuria, or a sense of burning when the urine flows out.
2. Cloudy Urine
Normal urine should be clear and a very, very light, or faint yellow. When you have a nice, well-hydrated urine. If that urine is looking cloudy, there's a great chance that you have bacteria in there, and this could be a UTI.
3. Foul-Smelling Urine
Normal urine does not have a strong odor and you should know how your urine smells normally. If you're getting a strong, pungent, or just bad odor in your urine, that could be a symptom of a UTI.
4. Frequency In The Urge To Urinate
If you notice that you're getting up to urinate way more frequently than you normally do, or if you're getting up at night, or having nocturia, then this could be a sign of a UTI. This frequency in urination can also be accompanied by only small amounts of urine being produced each time. Also, in men, this frequent urge to urinate could be a symptom of having a large prostate, especially if you're getting up at night to use the restroom quite a bit. Either way, you want to get checked out and make sure it's not an infection.
5. Urinary Urgency
This is when you are running to the restroom, "gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!", but you get there, and you really don't have to urinate, and not much urine is coming out. This is called urinary urgency and can be a symptom of UTI.
6. Pressure or Cramping In The Lower Abdomen
If you have cramping in the lower abdomen, specifically in the lower abdomen in the front, where the bladder is, and you're feeling a cramping sensation that's not normal for you or a pressure type of sensation, this could be a symptom of UTI. This can be quite an annoying symptom. A lot of my female patients will get this symptom, and they're not sure if maybe their period is coming on or if something is going on with the uterus. But quite frankly, the bladder sits right in front of the uterus, so sometimes these pains can be confused. But if you're getting a lower abdominal, kind of a crampy pain, or sometimes a sense of fullness, this could be a urinary tract infection symptom.
Of these common symptoms that I've listed thus far, which ones have you or a loved one experienced? Please comment below.
Now, for this next group of UTI indicators, these are a little more serious. If you experience any of these, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly as they may indicate pyelonephritis or a urinary tract infection that has advanced to the kidneys. This condition can be potentially life-threatening and should not be taken lightly.
By definition, a fever is when your temperature is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. If you're experiencing any indicators of a UTI and now have a fever, it could signal a serious infection or sepsis. Ignoring these warning signs may lead to septic shock, a potentially fatal condition if left unchecked. It's crucial to seek medical attention promptly.
8. Lower Back Pain or Flank Pain
If you're having lower back pain or flank pain, this could definitely be a symptom of a UTI. It could be indicative of pyelonephritis, a kidney infection that is often more serious. If you're having lower back pain, it could be a sign that the infection has moved up into your kidneys. You really need to get checked out right away because this is not something to ignore.
9. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting can be symptoms. You may think of these as only GI or gastrointestinal symptoms involving the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. But in fact, a urinary tract infection can cause symptoms like nausea or vomiting when they're accompanied by the above-listed symptoms. If you have severe nausea and vomiting with UTI symptoms, it's important to seek prompt medical attention.
10. Blood in Urine, or Hematuria
If you suspect that you have a UTI and you see blood in your urine, this could be a very serious sign, and you want to contact your physician or healthcare provider right away. Now, there are things other than UTIs that can cause blood in the urine, such as kidney cancer, bladder cancer, or if you have an inflammation of the kidneys like glomerulonephritis. Either way, having blood in your urine is not normal, and you definitely want to seek medical help at this time.
How To Prevent UTIs
So now let's talk prevention. We don't have to be all gloom and doom. There are some strategies for preventing UTIs.
- Hydration: You want to make sure that your body is adequately hydrated, and that you drink enough water because having a nice urine flow will help to prevent you from getting UTIs. It'll help keep the urine from being stagnant, just sitting there waiting for bacteria to multiply.
Instead, when you're drinking a lot of water, that allows the fluid to move, and the urine to flow. This process effectively flushes out any lurking bacteria, bidding them farewell as they exit through the urine.
- A Healthy Diet: Having a healthy diet that is low in processed foods and low in sugary foods. You want to avoid added sugar, and this can help, especially if you're a diabetic. Diabetics are at a higher risk for UTIs.
- Good Hygiene: Practicing good hygiene is important. Every individual possesses a natural flora or certain bacteria that are commonly found in the urinary tract region. However, we don't need any extra bacteria, so make sure that you bathe frequently and that you keep yourself clean.
- And, ladies, when you're wiping after you urinate, make sure you wipe from front to back. If you mess around and wipe from back to front, you're inviting all the bacteria from the backside into your urethra and your urinary tract. That's no bueno! It's bad news.
- And teach young girls. When they're old enough to urinate, and they're old enough to learn to wipe from front to back because children can get UTIs too.
- Urinate After Intercourse: Ladies, another way to prevent UTIs, remember when we talked about the honeymoon cystitis, the bladder infection or UTIs that women get after intercourse because women have short, little urethras?
Well, after you have intercourse, please don't just sit there and be in your afterglow, get up and go and urinate. Here's how it helps. If you get up and urinate, instead of the bacteria just sitting there and being able to crawl up your short, little urethra and get into your bladder. If you get up and urinate, then you flush out those bacteria that are trying to crawl up, and you prevent the UTI.
When To Seek Medical Help For A Urinary Tract Infection
When do you need to call your physician for a UTI? Well, if you're having any of these UTI symptoms, you need to go ahead and contact your physician. They can do a urinalysis with micro and they can do a urine culture where they see which bugs are growing in the urine. They will also see which bacteria are there, and they can also find out which antibiotics will work for your specific type of UTI.
If you have some of the more serious symptoms that I mentioned, like fever, back pain, vomiting, or blood in the urine, this means that the urgency is heightened, and you want to try to contact your physician or healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If you are unable to reach your physician, it may be necessary to visit the emergency room. These symptoms could indicate pyelonephritis, a kidney infection, and potentially sepsis, an overwhelming infection that could lead to a complication known as septic shock, which can be life-threatening.
If you experience symptoms like fever, vomiting, blood in the urine, and back pain, it is crucial to seek immediate medical assistance.
UTI Infection Treatment
When it comes to treating UTIs, doctors commonly prescribe oral antibiotics. Typically, women with uncomplicated UTIs undergo a three-day course of oral antibiotics, while men may require up to seven days of treatment. It can be longer depending on your medical complications or your personal risk factors. However, in severe cases where sepsis or a severe infection is present, intravenous antibiotics may be necessary.
It's important to follow your doctor's instructions and finish the entire course of antibiotics, even if you feel better. This ensures that all bacteria are eliminated from your urinary tract, preventing the infection from returning or worsening.
If you experience recurrent UTIs, it's essential to talk to your doctor about possible underlying causes and preventive measures. They may suggest a longer course of treatment or additional tests to identify any underlying conditions that could be contributing to your UTIs. Don't ignore recurring UTIs, as they can lead to more severe complications if left untreated.
In conclusion, a urinary tract infection may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it's crucial to take it seriously and seek medical attention promptly. By recognizing the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, practicing good hygiene and preventative measures, and seeking medical help when necessary, you can effectively prevent and treat UTIs.
However, for individuals with preexisting conditions such as kidney disease, UTIs can have more severe consequences. It's essential to take extra precautions and monitor any changes in urinary symptoms closely.
Don't ignore your body's signals; trust your instincts and seek medical attention when needed. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Stay healthy!
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