A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection affecting any part of the body’s urinary system. The urinary system includes the bladder, kidneys, urethra (outflow tube from the bladder), and ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder). UTI symptoms can range from mild pelvic discomfort to flank pain, high fever, nausea, and even vomiting if the kidneys become infected.
Both men and women of any age can suffer from UTI symptoms, although women are four times more likely to get UTIs than men. People with diabetes, spinal cord injuries, or those who require a tube (catheter) to drain the bladder are also at greater risk for developing a UTI.
Causes of UTIs
In most cases, the urinary system is efficient at keeping bacteria out of the urinary tract. However, sometimes the body’s defense system fails and allows bacteria to invadethe urinary tract via the urethra. The bacteria then begin to multiply in the bladder and create an infection which causes you to start experiencing a number of UTI symptoms.
Types of UTIs
The two most common urinary tract infections among women are cystitis and urethritis. Cystitis is a bladder infection caused by E. coli or other bacteria that migrate from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although sexual intercourse can lead to cystitis, it’s not the only cause. Due to a woman’s anatomy and the short distance between the rectum, urethra, and bladder, women are at greater risk of bladder infections..
Urethritis, a second type of UTI common to women, occurs when GI bacteria from the rectum spreads to the urethra. As with cystitis, this condition is aggravated by the short distance between the urethra and the vagina, which leads to a higher likelihood of sexually transmitted infections. Both of these infections cause similar UTI symptoms in patients.
Common Symptoms of UTIs
If you experience any of the following UTI symptoms, you should be evaluated by a medical professional.:
- Pain and/or burning sensation when you urinate
- An urge to urinate more frequently
- Pressure in your lower abdomen or pelvic area
- Pain just below the ribs in the back or side
- Fever, fatigue, or shakiness
- A foul odor to the urine
- Cloudy, pink, reddish, or cola-colored urine
How to Protect Against UTIs
Thankfully, there are a number of ways in which you can reduce your chances of getting a UTI. One of the simplest tactics is drinking more water. The more you drink, the more frequently you’ll urinate and flush bacteria from your urinary tract.
You might also consider drinking cranberry juice which is thought to affect the urinary pH and inhibit bacterial growth. Although no conclusive evidence has been found linking the consumption of cranberry juice to a lowered risk of UTIs, it certainly will not hurt to try this approach.
Good sanitary habits are essential for preventing UTIs. After emptying your bladder or having a bowel movement, always wipe from front to back. This prevents harmful bacteria from the rectum from being spread to the vagina and urethra. Also, if you’re sexually active, you should always empty your bladder as soon after intercourse as possible. This will help flush any unwanted bacteria fromthe urinary tract.
Finally, exercise caution regarding the use of certain feminine products and birth control methods, which can cause genital irritation. More specifically, douches, powders, and birth control devices, such as diaphragms and spermicide-treated or unlubricated condoms, which can lead to bacterial over growth and cause UTIs.
Understand Your Risk Factors
A number of factors put you at greater risk for developing a UTI. Women in particular are at a higher risk, simply due to their anatomy and the shorter distance between the rectum, the urethra, the urethral opening, and the bladder. Sexual activity increases the risk by mechanically moving bacteria up the urethra, as does menopause which causes thinning of the tissues surrounding the urethral openingas well as certain types of birth control methods, such as diaphragms mentioned above.
Although less common, congenital urinary tract abnormalities can make it difficult for urine to leave the body, causing a back-up in the urethra. (do you mean reflux? Which is back up into the ureters) Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate in men may also trap urine and create an increased risk for some individuals. Catheter use among those who have difficulty urinating due to neurological problems or paralysis, poses similar concerns. In some cases, UTIs can result from bacterial entry via procedures requiring the insertion of medical instruments into the urinary tract.
Preventing UTI Complications
If it’s too late to prevent a UTI, you should seek treatment immediately. Although most UTIs are just mildly annoying, and seldom lead to serious complications, untreated infections can be dangerous.
Possible complications include:
- Permanent kidney damage
- Recurring infections (two or more in a six-month period, or four or more in a year)
- Urethral narrowing, or stricture, in men due to recurrent urethritis
- Sepsis, a life-threatening complication stemming from an infection that reaches the kidneys
- In pregnant women, a risk of delivering premature or low birth-weight infants
Treatment for UTIs
If you are experiencing any common symptoms of UTIs or suspect you may have a UTI, your best course of action is to get a urine test at your local FastMed clinic. Our team will help assess the seriousness of the infection and, if necessary, prescribe an appropriate course of antibiotics. This will keep the infection from spreading to the kidneys, where it can become serious or even life-threatening.
FastMed clinics are open extended hours seven days a week, 365 days a year, making it easy and convenient to get help for a wide range of women’s health needs. There’s no need for an appointment. Simply walk in to one of our more than 100 locations throughout Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina, or to save time, check in online first.
FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates nearly 200 centers in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas that provide a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days a year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation and other occupational health services at all its centers, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than six million patients and is the only independent urgent care operator in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas to be awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.fastmed.com.