Urinary Tract Infection Treatment
A urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection of the kidneys, bladder, or urethra. These organs are collectively known as the urinary tract.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that can be found on the left and right side of the spine in your lower back. Their primary function is to remove waste from the blood. The filtered blood goes back into circulation while the waste becomes urine and stored in the bladder via a tube called the ureter.
The bladder is a balloon-like, funnel-shaped organ lying in your pelvis. Urine is conveyed from the bladder to the outside via a tube called the urethra.
Urinary Tract Infection: Causes and Symptoms
UTIs are generally caused by germs or bacteria that enter and multiply in the urinary tract, with the most susceptible parts being the bladder and urethra.
There are times, though, that bacteria may invade the urinary tract but will not present symptoms. This is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria, and there are tests that your doctor can do to determine if you suffer from it. However, if asymptomatic bacteriuria occurs in pregnant women, it is imperative that treatment is initiated.
The most common signs and symptoms of a UTI include:
- Painful urination
- Passing urine more often but in smaller amounts
- Wanting to urinate but not able to
- Dark, smelly, cloudy, or bloody urine
- Pain in the pelvic area in women
In children, additional symptoms may include:
- Fever, nausea, and vomiting
- Back and stomach pain
- Wets his or her pants even if potty-trained
Urinary Tract Infection: Risk Factors
Women are more prone to urinary tract infections than men because of the female anatomy. The urethra in women is shorter than in men, shortening the distance bacteria have to travel to reach the bladder.
Furthermore, the urethra in women lies very near the rectum, from where bacteria can quickly travel up the urethra to cause an infection. This is one reason why it is important that you wipe from front to back after a bowel movement as bacteria may easily get into the urethra if you wipe from back to front. You should also make sure that children are taught how to wipe correctly.
Sexual intercourse may also cause UTIs in women as bacteria can be pushed into the urethra. Diaphragms can also cause infections because they push against the urethra, making it harder to empty your bladder completely. The urine that stagnates in your bladder can cause bacteria to multiply and cause an infection.
Repeated UTIs may also be caused by changes in vaginal bacteria. Spermicides, antibacterial vaginal douches, and some oral antibiotics can cause these changes. You should try to avoid using these products. Menopause can also increase your chances of infections because hormonal changes during menopause can also cause changes in vaginal bacteria. Hormone replacement therapy using estrogen can address this issue but may not be appropriate for everyone.
Painful Urination: Other Probable Causes
A painful or burning sensation when urinating is often the first sign of a urinary tract or bladder infection. However, there are instances where painful urination can happen even if in the absence of an infection. Drugs used in cancer chemotherapy may cause inflammation of the bladder and painful urination, as well as a kidney stone or ovarian cyst that may be pressing against the bladder.
Vaginal irritation or infection may also cause painful urination. The chemicals in some soaps, douches, vaginal lubricants, contraceptive foams and sponges, and even scented toilet paper can cause vaginal irritation. If you experience pain when you urinate after using these products, you may be sensitive to them. It might be prudent if you avoid using them altogether.
Painful Urination: To See or Not to See a Doctor
Painful urination is not something that should be ignored. It can be a sign of a more serious health problem, and it is vital that you see a doctor immediately. Tell them about your symptoms, how long you have had them, and if you have any medical conditions such as diabetes or AIDS.
They should also be informed of any abnormality in your urinary tract, if you might be pregnant, if you have undergone any surgical procedures in your urinary tract, if you had stayed in a nursing home, or have been hospitalized very recently. This information is crucial because these situations can directly affect your body’s response to the infection and consequent treatment.
Your doctor may swab the vaginal lining or the urethra and study it under a microscope to determine if the pain is coming from vaginal irritation, or urethral infection due to yeast or bacteria. Other diagnostic tests may be suggested if no infection is found.
Urinary Tract Infections: Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will usually perform a physical examination and, together with your description of the symptoms, will be able to tell you what is causing your pain. A diagnostic test called a urinalysis would determine the type of infection. A sample of your urine taken in your doctor’s office will be sent to a laboratory for confirmation.
Treatment typically involves prescribing several days of antibiotic therapy for a healthy adult man or a non-pregnant woman. If a woman is pregnant, the doctor will prescribe a safe medicine for both mother and baby.
Symptoms will usually go away 1 to 2 days after taking the medication. However, it is essential that you do not stop taking the medicine even if you start feeling better. Follow your doctor’s instructions and take the medicine as prescribed to make the treatment effective and successful.
Your doctor may also prescribe a medicine that will have a sedative effect on your urinary tract to relieve your discomfort until the effects of the antibiotics kick in. You may notice your urine turn bright orange, but this is just a side-effect of the said medicine.
When consulting your doctor, you may need to ask a few questions to be better informed about UTIs. These questions include the following:
- Will I need any urine tests?
- What is the probable cause of my UTI?
- Will I need any medication? What are its possible side effects?
- When should I feel relief from the symptoms?
- What signs would tell me if my infection is getting worse? What should I do if I notice these signs?
- What measures can I do to prevent UTIs?
- When would I need preventive antibiotics? Should antibiotic resistance be a major concern for me?
- Could a physical problem be causing my child’s UTIs?
Frequently Asked Questions
Are urinary tract infections preventable?
There are a few preventive measures and lifestyle changes that you can do to help avoid UTIs. Here are some of them:
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, but cranberry juice may also help. However, if you are taking warfarin, consult your doctor first before taking cranberry juice as the juice can interact with the drug and increase your risk for hemorrhages. An adjustment to the dosage or more blood tests may also be required.
- Avoid holding your urine. Urinate as soon as you need to. Closely monitor your children and teach them to go to the bathroom every time they need to urinate, as well.
- Always remember to wipe yourself from front to back after every bowel movement. Teach your children to wipe correctly, too.
- Urinate after sexual intercourse to help flush out bacteria.
- Use adequate lubrication during sex. If you are a little dry, you can use a small amount of lubricant such as K-Y Jelly before sex.
- Avoid using a diaphragm as birth control. Consult your doctor about other methods.
- Try to wear loose-fitting clothing and dress your child in loose-fitting clothes, as well.
- If you are uncircumcised, wash the foreskin thoroughly. Make sure you teach your uncircumcised son how to wash his foreskin, too.
How will I know if the prescribed treatment is not working?
Your symptoms will either stay the same or worsen, or new symptoms will develop. If you suddenly feel fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and lower abdominal pain, or you still experience painful urination even after 3 days of medication, call your doctor immediately.
I’m pregnant. Will a UTI affect my baby?
An untreated UTI may cause a kidney infection, which can induce early labor. The good news is that if asymptomatic bacteriuria and UTIs are diagnosed and treated early and correctly, you may probably have nothing to worry about.
Can a bladder infection cause severe damage to the kidneys?
Yes, it can, mostly if left untreated. You must see a doctor right away if you or your child feel any signs and symptoms.
What should I do if my child or I suffer from frequent bouts of UTI?
If you suffer from 3 or more bouts of urinary tract infections a year, your doctor may recommend starting a preventive antibiotic regimen. It involves taking a small dose of antibiotics every day to help reduce infections. If you experience an infection after sexual intercourse, your doctor may recommend taking the medication after sex.
Your doctor can take steps to see if an anatomical problem is causing your child’s UTIs and if surgery may be required to address the issue. In some children, a prescribed medicine may need to be taken every day to prevent another UTI.