If you are one of the few women who has not experienced Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) yet, then consider yourself lucky. The chance of women getting a urinary tract infection is quite high. Some experts rank women’s lifetime risk of getting one as high as 1 in 2, with many women having repeat infections, sometimes for years. For men however, about 1 in 10 will get a UTI in their lifetime.
1. What causes UTI?
Urinary tract infections are caused by microorganisms, usually a bacteria that enter the urethra and bladder, causing inflammation and infection. Though a UTI most commonly happens in the urethra and bladder, the bacteria can also travel up the ureters and infect your kidneys. More than 90% of bladder infection (cystitis) cases are caused by E. coli, a bacterium normally found in the intestines.
2. What are the Symptoms of UTI?
The symptoms of a UTI can include:
- A burning feeling when you pee
- A frequent or intense urge to pee, even though little comes out when you do
- Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling pee
- Feeling tired or shaky
- Fever or chills (a sign that the infection may have reached your kidneys)
- Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
*You can also take a home test by using UTI test strips or 10 Parameter Urinalysis Test strips. They are available in your nearest pharmacy or online and are very convenient to use. But we advise to see a doctor if symptoms worsen.
3. What are the Types of UTI?
There are three different types of urinary tract infections. The type of infection depends on which part of the urinary tract is infected.
A urinary tract infection may involve different sections of the urinary tract including the following:
- Urethritis: An infection of the urethra, the hollow tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
- Cystitis: A bacterial infection in the bladder that often has moved up from the urethra.
- Pyelonephritis: An infection of the kidneys that is usually a result of an infection that has spread up the tract, or from an obstruction in the urinary tract. An obstruction in the urinary tract causes urine to back flow into the ureters and kidneys.
4. How to Prevent UTI?
You can usually prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) with lifestyle changes. These tips can include:
- Practicing good hygiene: This is especially important for women. Because the urethra in women is much shorter than it is in men, it’s easier for E. coli bacteria to move from the rectum back into the body. To avoid this, it’s recommended that you always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. Women should also use good hygiene practices during their menstrual cycle to avoid infections. Changing pads and tampons frequently, as well as not using feminine deodorants can also help prevent UTIs.
- Drinking plenty of fluids: Adding extra fluids, especially water, to your daily routine can help remove extra bacteria from your urinary tract. Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day is recommended.
- Changing your urination habits: Urination can play a big role in getting rid of bacteria from the body. Your urine is a waste product and each time you empty your bladder, you’re removing that waste from your body. Urinating frequently can reduce your risk of developing an infection, especially if you have a history of frequent UTIs. Drinking plenty of fluids will encourage this, but makes sure to avoid fluids and foods that could irritate your bladder. These can include alcohol, citrus juices, caffeinated drinks and spicy foods. You should also try to urinate immediately before and after sex. This could help flush out any bacteria that may have been introduced during intercourse. You can also wash the genital area with warm water before having sex. Don’t douche. This practice isn’t recommended by healthcare providers.
- Changing your birth control: Some women have an increased risk of developing a UTI if they use a diaphragm for birth control. Talk to your healthcare provider about other options for birth control.
- Using a water-based lubricant during sex: If you experience vaginal dryness and use a lubricant during sex, use one that is water-based. You may also need to avoid spermicide if you have frequent UTIs.
- Changing your clothing: Avoiding tight-fitting clothing can actually help keep you dry, preventing bacteria from growing in the urinary tract. You can also switch to cotton underwear. This will prevent extra moisture from getting trapped around your urethra.
5. How are Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) Diagnosed?
If you are worried about a UTI, then you should talk with your doctor. UTIs can be found either by UTI urine test strips or by analyzing a urine sample. The urine is examined under a microscope for bacteria or white blood cells, which are signs of infection. Your health care provider may also take a urine culture. This is a test that detects and identifies bacteria and yeast in the urine, which may be causing a UTI.
If you ever see blood in your urine, you should call your health care provider right away. Blood in the urine may be caused by a UTI but it may also be from another problem in the urinary tract.
If you are having fevers and symptoms of a UTI, or symptoms that won't go away despite therapy, then you should call a health care provider. You may need further tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, to check the urinary tract.
6. How are UTIs treated?
Treatment of UTIs depends on the cause. Your doctor will be able to determine which organism is causing the infection from the test results used to confirm the diagnosis.
In most cases, the cause is bacteria. UTIs caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics.
In some cases, viruses or fungi are the causes. Viral UTIs are treated with medications called antivirals. Often, the antiviral cidofovir is the choice to treat viral UTIs. Fungal UTIs are treated with medications called antifungals.
7. How long does a UTI last?
For most cases of uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs), you will need to take a 3-day course of antibiotics and make sure to stay hydrated. Some infections, however, may require longer treatment for up to 7-10 days. For complicated UTIs, your course of antibiotics may extend up to 2 weeks or more. How long it takes to recover depends on:
- What bacteria is causing the infection
- What type of drug is used?
- Your medical history
8. What Food to avoid when having UTI?
Avoid consuming foods and beverages that can irritate your bladder or worsen your symptoms, such as:
- Caffeinated coffee
- Caffeinated sodas
- Spicy foods
- Acidic fruits
- Artificial sweeteners
9. Can Cranberry Juice help prevent UTI?
You might have heard that cranberries help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). But are these berries really as medicinal as they are tart and tasty?
The research on this isn’t totally clear. Some studies have found that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills can prevent UTIs, especially in women who are at risk for these infections. But others haven’t come to that conclusion.
Cranberries don't seem to work for everyone. And they don’t treat UTIs that you already have.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says that unsweetened cranberry juice and cranberry supplements may make UTIs less likely, but that it’s not yet clear how much you need to take and for how long.
How Might It Work?
Scientists used to think that cranberries protect against UTIs by making urine more acidic, which is less friendly to bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) that are usually to blame.
But now, researchers have a different theory: that cranberries make it harder for infection-causing bacteria to stick to the urinary tract walls.
It could be that nutrients in cranberries change the bacteria so that they can't stick to the urinary tract. Or it may be that cranberries create a slippery coating on the urinary tract walls that makes it hard for E. coli to get a good grip.
Other UTI Facts:
- Diabetes can make you more likely to develop a UTI. According to the National Kidney Foundation, if you have diabetes, it may actually be easier for you to get a urinary tract infection. Often times, the disease affects your body’s defense system, making it harder to keep bacteria out.
- You may feel confusion. For older adults (usually older than 65-70), a urinary tract infection may make you feel confused about your everyday life or increase symptoms of dementia. You may not have any other symptoms associated with a urinary tract infection, but it just may turn out to be the culprit.
- Catheters can increase your chance of getting a UTI. Whether you’re male or female, any bacteria on a catheter can infect your bladder. If you’ve had a catheter for a long period of time, you could be more prone to urinary tract infections.
- A UTI can lead to serious complications. Detecting and treating these infections is so important, because without an antibiotic, they could lead to scarring of the renal tract, hypertension and even kidney injuries. If you think you could have a urinary tract infection, see a doctor immediately.
UTIs are most common in women. It has several causes but are mostly results of poor hygiene, not drinking enough fluids, particularly water, weakened immune system (such as those with diabetes) etc. Those who have UTIs in the past can experience them again. It is important to treat UTI immediately since it can complicate and infections can go to the kidneys which are more serious. At home, UTIs can be detected by using test strips for UTI or more commonly, the 10 Parameter Urine Test Strips. The color of these test strips indicates if you have an infection. Nitrites and Leukocytes are the two substances that characterizes UTI on the dipstick. The good thing about these dipsticks for urine is that they are convenient and can be bought over the counter or online. Self-Monitoring is important as prevention especially when you have repeated UTIs. If you have the symptoms or were able to have a positive test strips results for UTI, you should seek a health practitioner ASAP for treatment. Remember that self-care should always be your priority.