Everything You Need To Know About UTIs

By  | 
woman in bathroom

Image: iStock

When it comes to annoying medical conditions, UTI’s definitely make the cut. UTI’s, or urinary tract infections, are a very common condition that can affect men and women. UTI’s are caused by bacteria and can happen anywhere in the urinary system. UTI’s are easily treatable, however it is important to treat them right away to prevent complications. Although they can be uncomfortable with some unpleasant symptoms, they are easily taken care of.

There are two very common types of UTI’s, ones that affect the bladder, and ones that affect the urethra. Women typically are at a higher risk for UTI’s, as their anatomy is different than men. UTI’s can be caused by bacterial infection, or in some cases as a result of STI’s.

Symptoms and Causes

UTI’s are common, and typically caused by an invasion of bacteria in the system that can then colonize and cause problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, urinary tract infections can affect different points in the urinary system including the kidneys, bladder, urethra and ureter. Symptoms can vary, however in some cases there may be no symptoms at all. Commonly, symptoms include frequent urges to urinate, a burning sensation while urinating, smelly or cloudy urine, and bright red or pink urine. This condition can also come with pain in the abdomen or pelvic area.

Typically, UTI’s are caused by  bacteria getting into the urinary system and starting an infection. Women are usually affected more often, and this might be due to their physical differences, namely that the urethra is shorter in women than it is in men. People who are sexually active are more at risk for UTI’s, as are people who have a new sexual partner.

The Mayo Clinic also lists people who have a suppressed immune system at more at risk for getting UTI’s, as are people who have abnormalities or blockages in their urinary systems. Additionally, people who have had medical procedures in the area, or have had a catheters inserted recently might be at increased risk for contracting a UTI.

Diagnosis and Treatment

UTI’s are commonly diagnosed by urine sample. If there are more serious reasons to suspect a persistent issue, the doctor can take a look by using a scope or ultrasound. Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for UTI’s. Once on the medication, symptoms usually clear up fast. However, you may be recommended to take your antibiotics for the full prescribed course.

Many people swear by drinking cranberry juice to help alleviate UTI discomfort. Drinking a lot of water to help flush your system can also be a helpful course of action. If you are experiencing pelvic or abdominal pain from a UTI, you can try to use a heating pad to help ease the pain.

There are also some steps you can take to try and prevent getting a UTI. for example, drinking lots of fluids like water can help to keep your system flushed out. Additionally, wiping from front to back for women can reduce the risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract. Other ways that women can reduce their risk of UTI’s include urinating after sex to flush out the urinary system, and finding methods of birth control that do not contribute to the risk of contracting a UTI (for example, finding alternatives to diphragms which can introduce bacteria to the system).

Complications If Left Untreated

Although UTI’s are simply treated, they can lead to more complex health issues if left untreated. These can include an increased likelihood of getting more infections in the future, kidney damage, and kidney infection. In very severe cases, an untreated UTI can lead to sepsis, which can be life threatening.

If you suspect you might have a UTI, it is important to tell your doctor so that they can diagnose you properly. This ensures that you can get treatment in a timely manner and hopefully avoid problems further down the road. The sooner that you can take care of a urinary tract infection, the sooner you can treat it and get some relief from your symptoms.

A UTI isn’t the end of the world. These infections are common and treatable.

Chances are over your life you may experience at least one urinary tract infection. The important thing is to get checked out and treated, so you can move forward with your life.