Urinary tract infections (UTIs) send more than 8 million people to the doctor or hospital each year. While women are at highest risk of getting a UTI, men get them too. Most of the time, UTIs cause intense pelvic pain and pressure, as well as an urgent need to urinate. If left untreated, the infection can move up the urinary tract into the kidneys and turn into something much more serious. “Anyone who thinks they might have a urinary tract infection should seek immediate medical treatment,” said Cooper University Hospital urologist Nabet G. Kasabian, MD, FACS. “Antibiotics usually clear up the infection within one or two days.”
For symptom relief, Dr. Kasabian and his colleagues at Cooper also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, the use of a heating pad to soothe pelvic pain, and drinking plenty of fluids.
The most common symptoms of UTIs are:
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic region.
- Frequent need to urinate, with little to no flow.
- Burning sensation in the pelvic region, during and after urination.
- Cloudy, dark or bloody urine.
- Strong odor to urine.
- Feeling tired and lethargic.
Some people have no symptoms at all. Women often feel discomfort in the pelvic region. Men sometimes experience a fullness sensation in the rectal area. When fever is present, it typically means the infection has traveled to the kidneys. When the kidneys become infected, the person also can feel pain below the ribs, in the back or side, and may also experience nausea and vomiting.
Easy Diagnosis and Treatment
“A simple urine test gives us the information we need,” Dr. Kasabian said. “Urinalysis examines the red and white blood cells and also measures the amount of bacteria in the urine, which normally contains no bacteria at all. We then perform a sensitivity test on the urine culture to determine which antibiotics will work best on that particular patient.”
Most of the time, the bacteria that cause the UTI come from the digestive tract in the form of E. coli (Escherichia coli), which is found in everyone’s colon. It is believed that most UTIs are caused by E. coli entering the urethra after a bowel movement. Women may be more susceptible because their urethra is shorter than men’s, providing the bacteria a shorter distance to travel, and because the opening of a female’s urethra is so close to the rectum.
Other micro-organisms known to cause UTIs are chlamydia and mycoplasma, which can be sexually transmitted. Women who use diaphragms for birth control are also highly susceptible to UTIs because the device pushes against the urethra, making it harder to empty the bladder completely.
About 40 percent of women and 12 percent of men will have a UTI at some time in their life. People with diabetes and those who have urinary obstruction, such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, may not experience symptoms and are likely to be at higher risk for complications. Women who have had more than three UTIs are likely to continue having them. Pregnant women who develop a UTI need prompt treatment to prevent premature delivery and high blood pressure during pregnancy.
UTIs Are Easy to Avoid
Most people can avoid getting a UTI by:
- Drinking plenty of water each day.
- Urinating often; do not hold urine in the bladder.
- Voiding frequently and double voiding to ensure complete emptying.
- Wiping the genitals from front to back.
- Taking showers instead of baths.
- Using mild, unscented soaps.
- Cleansing the genital area before sexual intercourse.
- Empting the bladder before and after sex.
- Wearing cotton undergarments.
- Avoiding the use of scented sprays and lotions in the vaginal area; they tend to irritate the urethra.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
“Most UTIs can be prevented by making sure bacteria passes through the body and does not become attached to the cells that line the urinary tract,” Dr. Kasabian said. “Certain foods can help prevent UTIs from occurring naturally.”
Dr. Kasabian’s recommendations include:
- 500 mgs of vitamin C a day
- 1 yogurt a day
- 1 glass of cranberry juice a day
- 1 acidophilus pill a day
- 6 to 8 glasses of water a day
Remember, whenever UTIs recur or persist, further testing and medical treatment is probably needed. Call 1.800.826.6737 to make an appointment today.