Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common bacterial infections in humans. Women are at a higher risk for a UTI since the female urethra is shorter than a male urethra, and also closer to the vagina and anus.
Children can develop a UTI, and these need to be promptly evaluated by a physician and treated. Usually a UTI is not complicated and are easily treated with antibiotics.
Sometimes they can become chronic or can develop into a more serious infection involving the kidneys. This is called pyelonephritis and often requires hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics given through a vein (IV).
Possible causes of a UTI include wiping habits after voiding (women should always wipe front to back), incomplete bladder emptying, an enlarged prostate, a weakened immune system, kidney stones, pregnancy and sexual activity.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
- Burning or pain with urination
- An urgent need to urinate and feeling that you cannot empty the bladder
- Bladder pain, pelvic pain and/or low back pain
- Cloudy and/or foul smelling urine
- Low grade fever, chills, and fatigue
Can you prevent a UTI?
There are things that each individual can do to prevent a UTI:
- Women should always wipe front to back after urination
- Women should also empty their bladders before and after sexual activity
- Not holding onto urine for long periods of time will also help avoid infections
- Drink plenty of water and avoid things that can dehydrate you such as alcohol and caffeine
How is a UTI diagnosed?
A clean catch midstream urine is done to examine the urine for signs of infection which include white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria and nitrates. A urine culture is then sent to the lab to determine which bacteria is causing the infection and which antibiotics will be the most effective in treatment. A urine culture usually takes 2-3 days to complete so often patients are started on an antibiotic pending those results.
What are the treatment options?
Antibiotics to kill the bacteria are the treatment for a UTI. There are also medications that can be prescribed to help decrease the burning and pain with urination. These medications often change the color of the urine.
If antibiotics are prescribed for a UTI it is VERY important that all of the medication is taken as directed. Often people will stop the medication once their symptoms go away and this can lead to recurrent infections that may be harder to treat.