Health Tips Brought to You By U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group. Our experienced medical experts provide information here that we hope will broaden your healthcare knowledge.
Today’s topic is a common problem that people seek medical attention for at an Urgent Care center: Urinary Tract Infections.
Please continue reading to learn more from Dr. Betsy McKendry, a Tukwila, WA physician who has been practicing for 25 years.
1. What is the cause of urinary tract infections?
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are most commonly caused by bacteria. Escherichia coli is the most common type of bacteria. A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria from the skin, vagina or rectum spread into the urethra and travel up to the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract. A urinary tract infection is rarely caused by a fungal or viral organism.
2. Urinary tract infections are more common in women.
Women have a shorter urethra than men, which cuts down on the distance that bacteria must travel to reach the bladder. Activities such as sexual intercourse can spread bacteria to the urethra and trigger an infection. After menopause, the lack of estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that make it more vulnerable to infection. Recurrent UTIs in a woman or a UTI in a man can be a sign of an underlying abnormality, so it is important to investigate these cases further. Urinary tract abnormalities, such as a blockage or kidney stone, and diseases, such as diabetes or those that impair the immune system, can increase the risk of UTIs.
3. What are some common symptoms?
Urinary tract infections don’t always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include a strong persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, passing small amounts of urine more frequently than usual, urine that is cloudy, reddish colored or strong smelling. When a UTI becomes more serious, it may cause a fever, mid-to-lower back pain, nausea or vomiting.
4. Is a urinary tract infection dangerous?
A typical UTI, with infection in the bladder or urethra, is uncomfortable but not dangerous. If a typical, uncomplicated urinary tract infection is left untreated, it can potentially spread to the kidneys or into the blood stream and cause a much more serious infection. If a UTI is suspected, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for recommendations regarding treatment.
5. How are urinary tract infections treated?
A urinary tract infection is diagnosed through laboratory testing of the urine to determine if there is blood and bacteria in the urine. UTIs are treated by eliminating bacteria from the urinary tract. A UTI will sometimes go away on its own, but an antibiotic medication will significantly shorten the course of the infection. Drinking lots of fluids and urinating frequently will help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Over-the-counter medications are available to relieve the pain of a UTI. A heating pad on the back or abdomen may also help.
6. What can be done to prevent a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection cannot be completely prevented, but some measures can help. Drink plenty of fluids and urinate as soon as possible when you have the urge. Also, urinate soon after having sexual intercourse. Cranberry has a compound that inhibits bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. Drinking juice or using a cranberry supplement can help prevent UTIs.
Dr. Betsy McKendry is a Senior Managing Physician for U.S. HealthWorks in Tukwila, Washington.