UASB Patients Want to Know: What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)? It’s a question we receive quite often at Urology Associates of South Bend. UTIs can disrupt the health and function of the urinary tract, bladder, and kidneys, producing a range of uncomfortable and painful symptoms. Furthermore, this condition is quite common. Did you know that healthcare providers field a staggering 8.1 million visits per year due to urinary tract infections?
Our urologists believe it’s helpful for patients to gain a base understanding of how the urinary tract works. At UASB, we are pleased to share the latest education about and treatment approaches for a range of urological conditions. Learn more about what a UTI is and how you can protect yourself against developing one.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
The urinary tract is one of the primary vehicles to help the body eliminate waste. The kidneys, ureters, and bladder work in unison to ensure that bacteria is properly flushed out during urination. When bacteria finds its way to the urinary tract, the result is a urinary tract infection.
UTIs typically manifest as a bladder infection. It’s extremely important to treat a bladder infection as early as possible. Untreated, a bladder infection can transition into a kidney infection, resulting in serious and even dire health problems.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from a kidney infection is to recognize the symptoms of a UTI. Many people who are experiencing a UTI will exhibit the following:
- Burning sensations when urinating
- Intense and frequent urges to urinate
- Minimal to no amount of urine released during urination (despite the urge to go)
- Distinct, unpleasant smells that occur during/after urinating
- Cloudy, dark, pinkish- or brownish-tinted urine
Individuals who develop a fever and/or back pain with any of the symptoms above may already have a kidney infection. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s imperative to make an appointment with a urologist immediately.
Another way to protect yourself from a UTI is knowing how the condition comes about in the first place. Common causes of UTIs include:
- Sexual Activity
Women are especially susceptible to UTIs due to the close proximity of the rectum to the urethra. Bacteria have less of a distance to travel compared to male genitalia.
- Abnormal Genitalia
Conditions, either present at birth or due to structural issues and alterations of the genitalia, can cause bacteria to nestle into the bladder and urethra. They can also cause blockages in the bladder, which prevent urine from draining properly.
- Compromised Immune System
People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing a UTI due to the inability to sufficiently fight germs.
- Menopausal Women and Women Taking Birth Control
During menopause, the lining of the vagina alters and estrogen dips, causing a higher probability of UTIs. Similarly, women who use certain types of birth control, such as diaphragms and spermicide, may be more at risk of bacteria triggering a UTI.
In addition to the causes above, there are other less common issues that lead to UTIs. Some people may frequently use catheters or have a history of multiple UTIs.
UTI Prevention and Treatment
Thankfully, there are preventative strategies that can help you lower your risk of developing a UTI. At UASB, we recommend incorporating the following steps to keep your urinary tract healthy and UTI-free:
- Drink Plenty of Water
Optimally, you should drink a minimum of eight eight-ounce glasses of liquid per day. Water is best, but cranberry juice has been suggested (although not scientifically proven) to help prevent UTIs.
- Urinate Shortly After Sex
Urinating after sex flushes out bacteria that lead to UTIs.
- Switching Birth Control
Women who experience UTIs as a result of using spermicides and diaphragms should consult with a healthcare provider about the possibility of switching birth control.
- Going to the Bathroom When Needed
It’s not uncommon to put off going to the bathroom, especially during busy work shifts. It’s important, however, to go when you need to rather than waiting. Holding in urine for too long only increases the risk of a UTI.
- Wipe From Front to Back
It may seem like a no brainer, but it’s important to understand how important wiping from front to back is after going to the bathroom. Wiping the correct direction can prevent bacteria in the anus from infecting the urethra.
Sometimes, no matter how diligent you are with implementing preventative measures, UTIs still occur. Provided that you consult with your urologist at the first sign of symptoms, a UTI can be treated without any repercussions.
Generally, UTIs are addressed with oral antibiotics. If a UTI has become more complex, intravenous antibiotics may need to be administered at a hospital, followed up with an additional series of oral antibiotics.
To learn more about UTIs and how to protect yourself, contact one of our helpful UASB team members. Or, if you’re concerned you may be exhibiting symptoms, schedule a consultation today or call us any time at (574) 234-4100.