What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection in the urinary tract. Infections are caused by microbes—organisms too small to be seen without a microscope. Bacteria are the most common cause of UTIs. Normally, bacteria that enter the urinary tract are quickly removed by the body before they cause symptoms. But sometimes bacteria overcome the body’s natural defenses and cause infection. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common reasons for visiting a doctor about an infection. A UTI can range from an infection of the bladder, to an infection of the kidney.
- If the infection is in the urethra, it is called urethritis.
- Infection in the vagina is called vaginitis.
- If it is in the bladder, causing urinary bladder inflammation, it is called cystitis.
Cystitis is the most common lower urinary tract infection and causes the bladder lining to become raw and inflamed.
Urinary tract infections or UTIs occur in people of any age or sex. But about four times as many women get UTIs as men. That is because women have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Also, the opening of a woman’s urethra is nearer to areas where bacteria live. Women who use a diaphragm are also more likely to get UTIs than women who use other forms of birth control. You’re also at higher risk if you have diabetes, need a tube to drain your bladder, or have a spinal cord injury. Some other interesting statistics about UTIs are:
- Urinary Tract Infections are common, particularly with increasing age
- About 1 in 2 women and 1 in 20 men will get a UTI in their lifetime
- Nearly 1 in 3 women will have a UTI needing treatment before the age of 24
A faint prickly feeling during urination is usually the first sign of a urinary tract infection. Bacteria can be present in a urine sample without causing any symptoms. This is more common in women who have diabetes, repeated UTIs, or in the elderly. This type of UTI may not always need treatment except in special situations, such as in pregnant women. UTIs with symptoms are most common among sexually active women. The most common symptoms include:
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- An urge to urinate often, even if you only pass a small amount
- Pressure in your lower belly
- Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy or reddish
- Pain in your back or side below the ribs
- Fever, tiredness or shakiness
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your medical professional immediately. The earlier that you treat a UTI, the easier and quicker it is to recover.
Your doctor will test a sample of your urine for bacteria and blood cells. UTIs are common and easily treated with antibiotics. The length of time a patient needs to take an antibiotic for a UTI is determined by their physician. Some of the factors your physician will consider are how bad the infection is, recurrence, and personal history. In addition, your doctor may suggest you take a pain reliever, use a heating pad, and drink plenty of fluids.
If left untreated, a UTI can develop into a kidney infection called Pyelonephritis which is a much more serious condition.
If you’d like to learn more about UTIs and kidney health, visit The National Kidney Foundation.
Share any tips you have for women with recurring UTIs. What helped you?