What is a Urinary Tract Infection, and How Do You Treat It?
A urinary tract infection, known commonly by its acronym UTI, is an infection of the urinary tract, which includes the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. It commonly presents itself as a burning sensation when you urinate. It is an extremely common infection, affecting millions of people every year. In fact, about 50% of women will experience a UTI sometime during their lifetimes. If you have one, or think you may have one, read on to learn more about this painful infection and what you can do to treat it.
Causes of UTIs
Bacteria naturally lives on the area around the vagina. This bacteria can travel into the urethra and ureter (the opening and tube that carries urine out of the bladder) and stick to its lining, causing the infection. Unfortunately, women are more prone to this infection, as their ureter is much shorter than in men. This compounded by the fact that the woman’s urethral opening is right above the vagina, meaning that any bacteria from the vagina and the anus can travel upwards and cause a UTI.
Risk factors that make a woman susceptible to a urinary tract infection is pregnancy, not urinating after sexual intercourse, diabetes, and holding your urine for long periods of time.
Symptoms of an UTI
Urinary tract infections are infamous for how painful they are. The two most common symptoms is feeling a strong urge to urinate at all times and a burning pain whenever you do urinate. Those with a UTI find that even though they have the sharp need to urinate, they may only have to urinate a small amount or not at all, which leads to more pain and frustration. Other symptoms include cloudy or odorous urine, soreness in your lower abdomen or back, and feeling overall weak and shaky. If left untreated, a UTI may develop into a kidney infection, which will present worse symptoms. Those with a kidney infection may feel a fever, nausea, sharp pains, and bloody urine. These are all serious symptoms and should you experience them, you should contact a doctor immediately.
Treating a UTI
It is important to go to a doctor as soon as you think you have a UTI. If left untreated, a urinary tract infection could lead to a kidney infection and may cause sepsis and permanent damage to your kidneys. A doctor will take a urine sample to inspect for signs of bacteria and infection, and will prescribe an antibiotic based on those test results. It is important to finish all of the medication prescribed even after your symptoms have cleared to make sure the infection is completely eradicated.
To help the recovery process, you should drink plenty of water to flush out the bacteria. It is important to avoid any other kind of drinks, especially coffee, alcohol, and soda, as their ingredients may irritate the bladder. It is a popular remedy to drink cranberry juice to treat UTIs, but actual medical studies on this solution have produced mixed results. To help with the pain, place a warm heating pad on your abdomen to minimize the pressure and discomfort.
Preventing a UTI
Women become more susceptible to contracting a UTI after having one in the past. Therefore, it’s important to take preventative measures so that you do not get this painful infection again. Always wipe from front to back after urinating or a bowel movement. Wash the skin around your vagina and anus every day, but do not use any douches, powders, and deodorant sprays around the vaginal area. The vagina is self-cleaning, and any additional ingredients could disrupt its natural pH balance and cause an infection. Wear breathable, cotton underwear instead of tight, polyester underwear – this tight material sticks to your body and allows bacteria to thrive. Always urinate as soon as possible after sexual intercourse to flush out any bacteria from you or your partner. In general, never hold off on going to the bathroom when you need to – go when you feel the urge! Urine is waste after all, and holding it inside your body for long periods of time will cause problems.
UTI Treatment Near You
A urinary tract infection is never pleasant, so it is paramount that you go to a compassionate doctor that will give you the right treatment for it. For comprehensive care and treatment, Women First Health Center is here for you. Our team of physicians provide various OB-GYN services and care for all of your feminine needs. To learn more and schedule an appointment, contact our West Orange, NJ office today!