Overview and Facts
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a health problem that affects the bladder, and it affects millions of people every year. It is an infection that begins in the urinary system, which includes the bladder, kidneys, urethra and ureters. If germs get into the urinary tract system, which is the system in our body that makes urine and carries it from the body, an infection is the result. Any part of the urinary system can get an infection, but it usually involves the lower tract, which includes the urethra and bladder. Most UTIs are bladder infections, which is not a serious infection when taken care of upon discovery. UTIs are second of the most common types of infections.
About 8.3 million yearly doctor visits are for UTIs. Women are more susceptible to developing UTIs, though research has not completely determined why women are at a greater risk. Men can get UTIs too, but it is not as common as in women. One in five women will develop a UTI at some point in her lifetime.
Signs and Symptoms
When you have a urinary tract infection, symptoms won’t always be present. If they are, these are some UTI symptoms to be aware of:
- Feeling pain or a burning sensation during urination
- Having a strong urge to urinate often
- Urinating smaller amounts more often
- Heavy feeling in the belly
- Cloudy, strong smelling urine
- Blood or bacteria in the urine
If you experience these symptoms and feel as though you have a UTI, and you experience any of the following symptoms along with it, call a doctor immediately:
- You experience fever or chills
- You have diabetes or kidney problems
- You are pregnant or over age 65
- You feel nauseous or start vomiting
- You feel pain near the kidneys (on either side of your back, under the ribs)
Causes and Diagnosis
When bacteria or germs enter the urinary tract, an infection is usually the result. When bacteria enters through the urethra, it can get into the bladder and kidneys and it can multiply into an infection, which causes UTI symptoms such as experiencing pain when urinating.
Women are more prone to developing UTIs than men. One reason may be that women have shorter urethras, which makes it easier for bacteria to move through the urethra and up to the bladder. When a woman has sex, it also becomes easier for germs to get into the urethra and eventually make their way into the bladder.
Not drinking enough fluids can also make you more prone to getting a urinary tract infection. Or, if you are pregnant, have diabetes, or have a condition such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate that may inhibit the flow of urine from the bladder. To prevent a UTI, doctors recommend drinking plenty of water and even cranberry juice. For women, urinating immediately after sex can help prevent a urinary tract infection.
To diagnose a UTI, a doctor will take a urine sample to test for germs or bacteria that typically cause bladder infections.
Tests and Treatment Options
Since a urinary tract infection is one that begins when bacteria gets into the urethra and bladder, UTIs are treated with antibacterial drugs. Usually the infection clears up within 1-2 days of starting treatment; however, doctors may recommend that the antibiotics be taken for about a week. Some common antibacterial drugs used for UTI treatment are:
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
There are some home remedies that can ease the pain of a UTI. These do not replace taking the antibacterial drugs; there are merely to help provide UTI pain relief:
- Drink plenty of water
- Use a heating pad your abdomen
- Don’t smoke
- Take a hot bath
- Urinate frequently
- Avoid coffee, alcohol and soft drinks, especially those containing citrus juice
- Don’t eat spicy foods