UTIs, or urinary tract infections, are one of the most common types of bacterial infections. This infection is the result of bacteria in a part of the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, uterus, bladder, and urethra. Though people of all ages and genders are susceptible to UTIs, women are ten times more likely to contract the infection than men. Some conditions such as diabetes and kidney stones can also cause a UTI on occasion.
Urinary tract infections begin when bacteria enters the body via the urethra and moves into the bladder where is starts to multiply. There are three common types of infections:
Cystitis: an infection of the bladder caused by the bacteria, E. Coli (commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract). Can also result from sex.
Urethritis: an infection of the urethra caused when bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract travels from the anus. This infection can also be caused by sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and mycoplasma.
Pyelonephritis: an infection of the kidneys caused when bacteria travels from the urethra or bladder.
Symptoms of UTIs will vary according to the location of the infection:
- Patients suffering from cystitis and urethritis will experience pain and burning with urination, discharge, pelvic pain, discomfort in lower abdomen, and blood in the urine.
- Patients suffering from pyelonephritis will experience upper back pain, high fever, chills, shaking, and nausea.
Though many people attempt to treat a urinary tract infection at home, it is important to contact your physician as a bacterial infection can lead to further, more severe conditions if left untreated. Once diagnosed with a UTI, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic medication to kill the bacteria. It is crucial to continue taking your medication until your infection is totally gone and the bacteria has been killed off completely.
Though you will need to seek treatment via antibiotics from your doctor, there are several things you can do to help yourself heal and combat your symptoms:
- Stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water and fluids helps flush the bacteria from your system.
- Heating pads can help with any abdominal pain you may experience.
- Increase your intake of Vitamin C (fruits and vegetables are a great source)
- Though not proven statistically, drinking cranberry juice has been known to help with preventing the bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
- Take probiotics, which promote a healthy balance of bacteria in your body.
Unfortunately there is nothing one can do to prevent urinary tract infections completely, however, there are some steps you can take to help avoid future infections:
- Alleviate yourself immediately upon feeling a full bladder. Make sure to empty your bladder completely.
- Get lots of vitamin C
- Wipe from front to back
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid baths
- Clean genitals before and after engaging in sexual activity
If left unchecked, UTIs can lead to much more severe conditions like permanent kidney damage and chronic infections. Make sure to reach out to your doctor with the onset of any symptoms of an infection to get a jumpstart on your treatment and healing.