UTI. Urinary Tract Infection. Most women have heard of them and about 25% of them will get at least one during her childbearing years, some having several. The treatment is very simple, usually very rapid and the infection itself leaves no permanent damage. There are ranges of the infection itself, the most painful and dangerous is a kidney infection when the bacteria has traveled beyond the urethra (urinary tract), past the bladder and into the tissues of the kidney. And while a mild UTI can sometimes be treated at home, a kidney infection requires immediate medical attention.
A healthy bladder is bacteria-free. Sometimes bacteria from the rectum can make it’s way to the urethra and take a short journey into the bladder. The short length of the female urethra itself and the closeness of the urethra and the anus is what makes women 8 times more likely to get a UTI then men. UTIs are often related to sexual relations but may also occur during pregnancy due to the flux in hormones and the pressure of the baby on the bladder. It is important to let your OB know if you think you have a UTI because an infection left untreated can lead to complications with the unborn baby. UTIs can also occur when a woman is close to menopause as her estrogen levels begin to decrease.
Symptoms of UTIs vary a bit from woman to woman but the main ones are almost always present. It’s important to know how your body reacts so that you can seek proper treatment as soon as possible. A constant urge to urinate but often producing nothing more then a teaspoon of urine is a very common symptom. Pain during urination is a very non-descript symptom and can range from pain in the bladder area to stinging pain where the urine is coming out. Some women refer to the stinging pain as ‘peeing razor blades’. Your urine may become cloudy and blood may be present. Often blood is present but only detectable with a doctor’s test. It’s possible to have some lower back pain as well. If you find yourself constantly rushing to the bathroom only to find your bladder apparently empty you probably have a UTI. UTIs left untreated can travel to your kidneys and that’s when the real pain sets in. Nausea, vomiting, fever and chills along with acute pain in your back are all symptoms of a kidney infection. At this point it will become impossible for you not to seek immediate medical attention, often resulting in an ER visit.
A simple UTI can sometimes be stopped by consuming lots of water (about 8oz. an hour) and cranberry juice but it is always advisable to call your doctor if you think you have a UTI. You can put one half teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water once a day. Things like caffeine and alcohol can often make your discomfort worse so try to avoid them while you are treating a UTI. In addition to the antibiotics your doctor prescribes you may also get a drug that acts as a urinary pain reliever until you are on the mend. You will begin to feel better very quickly after starting the antibiotics, with complete cessation of symptoms in 48 to 72 hours after the beginning of your treatment. It is always important to finish all prescribed antibiotics to prevent re-occurrence of a stronger bacterial infection.
While it’s important to know the steps in identifying and treating a UTI you should arm yourself with the knowledge of how to prevent them. Drinking plenty of water each day is good for you in general but it also goes long ways in preventing urinary infections. Constantly flushing out bacteria that may be present before they have a chance to become a full blown infection may save you the pain of a UTI. Women should always wipe front to back when using the bathroom. Make sure you don’t hold your urine any longer then you have to. Always go to the bathroom after sex to flush away any bacteria that may have entered during the act. Try to avoid wearing tight clothing, like panty hose, for long periods of time and if possible wear cotton underwear.
Prevention is key but if you think you’re getting a UTI it’s a good idea to contact your doctor. Your doctor will check your urine for bacteria and prescribe the proper treatment. Remember to finish all treatments prescribed by your doctor and drink plenty of water. Do not let a UTI go untreated or it can lead to a very painful and dangerous kidney infection. Once you’ve been treated for a UTI most doctors will simply call in a prescription for treatment to your pharmacist without an office visit but if you find you are having frequent, reoccurring UTIs it may be a symptom of something deeper that only you and your doctor can diagnose.