Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are infections that can afflict any part of the urinary system, most often the bladder, but in more severe cases the kidney may also be involved.
UTI’s are much more common in women than in men, and in fact greater than 50% of all women will experience at least one bladder infection during their lives.
It is thought that since the urethra is shorter in women than in men, it is much easier for bacteria to reach the bladder and cause problems. Generally speaking, bladder infections are not a serious problem as long as they are detected and treated quickly. However at times they may become quite severe if not detected or treated appropriately, or if there exist other complicating factors. Additionally UTI’s can be come a recurrent problem which can become quite bothersome for some.
Causes of bladder infections
There are several causes for recurrent UTIs in women. Vaginal intercourse may cause bacteria to enter a women’s urethra, pregnancy may cause physiologic changes, and menopause may change the natural protective pH of the vagina. One should urinate after vaginal intercourse if recurrent UTI’s are a problem following intercourse to help flush out the bacteria from the bladder. Other medical problems such as diabetes can also predispose a person to UTI’s.
Although some bacteria in the urine may be asymptomatic, at times UTI’s can be quite symptomatic. The most common symptom of a UTI is burning on urination. There can also be a persistent urge to urinate, frequent urinations, cloudy urine, urine that is discolored pink, red, or dark and/or malodorous. Women at times may also experience pelvic pain.
The location of the UTI may dictate symptoms. As UTIs ascend the urinary tract to the kidneys the symptoms may become more severe often involving a high fever with rigors and chills, nausea, vomiting, and acute pain in the side of the lower back.
What can be done to manage UTI’s
Generally when a UTI is diagnosed, the first line of defense is a program of antibiotics. Symptoms should usually clear after a few days unless there are complicating factors. For kidney infections, symptoms may persist for longer, and high fevers may continue for several days despite appropriate antibiotic treatment. If a great deal of pain or discomfort is associated with the infection, your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication to relieve the discomfort you experience during urination. It usually takes a few days for urine cultures to grow the bacteria type and antibiotic sensitivity. Your physician may change the antibiotics if necessary once the urine culture has been grown in the lab.
Additional suggestions include drinking plenty of water, to dilute the urine and flush out harmful bacteria. Finally, although the research is not quite compelling, cranberry extract or Vitamin C supplements are also recommended to decrease recurrent infections.