A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection that develops in the urinary system which consists of the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters. Infections in these areas are the second most common form in the body.
People of any sex and age can develop UTIs, but some are more at risk. This includes persons who use immunosuppressant medications and those with certain medical conditions and suppressed immune systems, sexually active women, and men who have an enlarged prostate.
Bear in mind that women are more prone to developing these infections than men because of anatomical reasons. The urethra (the tube leading from the bladder) in a woman is shorter and is located nearer to the anus; thus, it is easier for bacteria to get inside the bladder. In contrast, a man has a longer urethra in an environment that is drier, and the prostate produces fluid to help fight off bacteria.
Common Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection
- Frequent and strong urge to pass urine, but only a little will come out
- Burning or painful sensation when urinating
- Urine looking bloody or cloudy with a strong smell
- Muscle aches
- Pressure or pain in the lower abdomen or back
- Vomiting and nausea
- Shaky or tired feeling
- Chills or fever, which is a sign that the infection might have entered the kidneys
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections develop whenever microbes find their way into the natural defences of the body. In most cases, it is triggered by the Escherichia coli, or E. coli, which are bacteria typically found in the digestive system. Mycoplasma and chlamydia are two pathogens that can cause an infection to develop in the urethra system but not in the bladder.
The following factors can increase your chances of developing a UTI:
- Poor or improper personal care
- Sexual intercourse
- Problems with completely emptying the bladder
- Using a urinary catheter
- Blocked urine flow
- Bowel incontinence
- Kidney stones
- Certain types of contraception
- Suppressed immune system
- Procedures which involve the urinary tract
- A long period of immobility
Urinary Tract Infection Treatments
Before recommending a treatment for a urinary tract infection, the doctor will test a sample of your urine and look for UTI-causing bacteria.
The first line of treatment is usually antibiotics. These are prescribed based on your health condition and on the type of bacteria present in your urine. In most cases, the symptoms will clear up after a few days of treatment, but you might have to continue taking the antibiotics for one or more weeks. The antibiotics can kill off the intruders, so it is important to take the prescribed amount until the medicine is completely finished, even if you are starting to feel better. It is also important for you to drink a lot of water as this will help flush the bacteria out of your system.
If you have an uncomplicated case of UTI but are otherwise in good health, the doctor might recommend a treatment for a shorter term. For this you could be given antibiotics to use for one to three days. Your medical history and symptoms will determine whether or not this short-course treatment is sufficient to get rid of your infection.
Your doctor might prescribe an analgesic medication that can soothe your pain and burning while urinating by numbing your urethra and bladder.
If you are dealing with frequent UTIs, the doctor might recommend certain treatments such as:
- One dose of antibiotic to be taken after having sex if the infections are linked to sexual activity
- Low dose antibiotics for six months initially or for longer
- Vaginal estrogen therapy for women who are postmenopausal
For severe UTI cases, your doctor might recommend treatment with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital.
There are also some home remedies that you could try to ease the painful discomfort of UTI while it’s being treated with antibiotics. Here are some simple tips to follow:
Avoid drinks which might irritate your bladder. You should stay away from alcohol, coffee and soft drinks with caffeine or citrus juices until the infection clears up. Not only can these irritate the bladder, but they will aggravate your urgent or frequent need to urinate. Remember to drink a lot of water to flush out the bacteria and dilute your urine.
Apply a warm heating pad to the abdomen to reduce bladder discomfort or pressure.
Generally speaking, most of the UTIs are not serious conditions but some could cause serious problems especially the upper urinary tract infections. A long-lasting or recurrent kidney urinary tract infection can lead to permanent damage. Some abrupt kidney infections are life-threatening, and can increase the likelihood of women delivering premature babies or babies with low birth weight.