A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection in any part of your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, bladder and urethra.
It is usually caused by bacteria (sometimes by virus or fungi) that have entered the urethra and spread further into the bladder. Symptoms may include a strong, persistent urge to urinate and a burning sensation when urinating.
UTI’s are very common, especially in women. More than half of all women get a UTI at some point in their lives, with many women having repeat infections, sometimes for years. About 1 in 10 men will get a UTI in their lifetime.
Antibiotics may be required to treat a UTI.
UTIs are the second most common type of infection to occur in the human body. They occur more often in women, but can affect men, too. Women have a shorter urethra, so it’s easier for bacteria to enter their bladder. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates 40-60% of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime.
Urinary tract infections in men are often related to an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy) blocking the flow of urine. This allows bacteria to have an easier time occupying the urinary tract.
In almost 90% of cases, the bacterium Escherichia coli is the cause of the UTI. E. coli is normally found inside the intestines. When confined to the intestines, it’s harmless. But sometimes this bacterium gets into the urinary tract and causes an infection.
Sex may trigger a UTI in women. This is because intercourse can move bacteria from the anal area to near the opening of the urethra. Women can lower their risk of infection by cleaning the genital area before any sexual activity and by urinating afterward.
Using spermicides, diaphragms, and condoms also raises the risk of a UTI. The risk is higher in people with a weakened immune system as well. Other conditions that can boost UTI risk include diabetes, hormone changes, multiple sclerosis and anything that affects urine flow, such as kidney stones, a stroke and a spinal cord injury.
Other possible explanations: remember that burning and discomfort when urinating are not always caused by a urinary tract infection.
Sometimes it can be due to sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydiosis, gonorrhea, herpes and mycoplasmosis. In women, candidiasis is also a common explanation; atrophic vaginitis can cause similar symptoms – this is especially common after menopause. In men, prostatitis can sometimes cause problems.
An infection can happen in different parts of your urinary tract. Each type has a different name, based on where it is.
- CYSTITIS (bladder): The most common form of urinary tract infection is called cystitis. You might feel like you need to pee a lot, or it might hurt when you pee. You might also have lower belly pain and cloudy or bloody urine.
- PYELONEPHRITIS (kidneys): This can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and pain in your upper back or side.
- URETHRITIS (urethra): This can cause a discharge and burning when you pee.
Typical symptoms of urinary tract infection include burning and frequent urination. Many people also have a strong urge to urinate and pelvic pain. In some cases there may be blood in the urine. If you also have fever and chills, possibly in combination with back pain, it may be a sign of pyelonephritis (kidney inflammation).
Prevention and protection
Drink plenty of liquids to flush bacteria from your urinary tract and to prevent the infection from developing. If you are a woman, wipe from front to back, which helps prevent bacteria from the rectum spreading to the vagina. Good hygiene is very important.
Certain home remedies can help you feel better sooner and reduce the likelihood of recurrent infections.
Most UTIs aren’t serious. But if left untreated, the infection can spread up to the kidneys and bloodstream and become life-threatening. Kidney infections can lead to kidney damage and kidney scarring.
Treatment of a UTI depends on its cause. If it is caused by bacteria, as with 90% of UTI’s, it can be cured with antibiotics. Doctors usually prescribe an antibiotic for at least three days and symptoms usually improve within two to three days.
While this type of medication is the standard treatment, researchers are noticing that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are reducing the effectiveness of some antibiotics in treating UTIs. When an antibiotic medication doesn’t stop the bacteria causing an infection, the bacteria continue to multiply. The overuse or misuse of antibiotics is often the reason for antibiotic resistance. This can happen when the same antibiotic is prescribed over and over again for recurrent UTIs. Because of this risk, experts have been looking for ways to treat UTIs without antibiotics.
Along with standard therapy, you can incorporate home remedies to feel better sooner and reduce the likelihood of recurrent infections.
- Cranberries: Cranberries may contain an ingredient that stops bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. You may be able to reduce your risk with unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry supplements.
- Drink plenty of water: Although urinating can be painful when you have a UTI, it’s important to drink as many fluids as possible, particularly water. The more you drink, the more you’ll urinate. Urinating helps flush harmful bacteria from the urinary tract.
- Pee when you need to: Holding your urine or ignoring the urge to urinate can allow bacteria to multiply in your urinary tract. As a rule of thumb, always use the bathroom when you feel the urge.
- Take probiotics: Probiotics promote healthy digestion and immunity. They also may be effective in treating and preventing UTIs. With a UTI, bad bacteria replace good bacteria in the vagina, especially those of one group called Lactobacillus. Probiotics can restore good bacteria and might reduce recurrence of a UTI.
- Get more vitamin C: Increasing your intake of vitamin C may help prevent a UTI. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and may help acidify the urine, to prevent infection.
When to consult a doctor
If you have a suspected urinary tract infection, you should contact your doctor. Children and men with an urinary tract infection should seek care at the first symptoms.
If you have fever, chills or blood in the urine (or semen), you should seek urgent care. This also applies to sudden pain in the urinary tract.
How APPOTEK can help
Appotek can help you with UTIs. A nurse or doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms, then may prescribe treatment or refer you for further examination. Bear in mind that a urine sample may be required to make the correct diagnosis.