Dealing with a urinary tract infection (UTI) is never a fun time. However, having a better understanding of what’s going on with your body can make it a lot more tolerable. UTIs are very common. Most women will have at least one during their lifetime. Here’s what to expect with a urinary tract infection. The symptoms of a UTI, and everything else you need to know!
Don’t use this as a substitute for professional medical advice. We’re not here to diagnose you over the internet, we’re just here to cover some key facts about UTIs. You can use what you learn here to talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection that can occur anywhere within the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters.
Most UTIs occur in the lower tract but in rare cases, they can affect the upper tract (ureters and kidneys). UTIs in the upper tract are usually more severe.
UTIs affect women more often than men. It’s estimated that up to 60% of women will experience at least one UTI throughout their lifetime, compared to around 10% of men.
While symptoms can be annoying and uncomfortable, UTIs are generally easy to treat without causing any major complications.
What Causes a UTI?
While the urinary tract is designed to keep harmful bacteria from entering, its natural defense mechanisms can fail from time-to-time.
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that enter through the urethra. Once inside the urethra, bacteria travel to the bladder, resulting in an infection.
UTIs mainly affect the bladder or urethra, resulting in the following infections:
- – Infection of the bladder (Cystitis): Cystitis is typically caused by the bacteria E. coli (Escherichia coli). This bacteria is naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract where it aids in the digestion process. When E. coli finds its way into the bladder it can trigger an autoimmune response in the form of a UTI.
- – Infection of the urethra (Urethritis): This type of UTI is usually caused by gastrointestinal bacteria that enter the urethra from the anus. Due to the proximity of the female urethra to the vagina, women are also susceptible to urethritis if they have a sexually transmitted infection.
How To Know If You Have A UTI
If you have never had a urinary tract infection before, you will want to look for some of these telltale signs.
- – Frequent urge to urinate.
- – Cloudy and strong-smelling urine.
- – Burning sensation while peeing.
- – Blood in the urine.
- – Abdominal pain.
- – Nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches are also common.
Risk Factors for UTIs
Anyone can develop a urinary tract infection regardless of age or sex, but some people are more at risk than others.
Risk factors that could increase the likelihood of developing a UTI are:
- – Poor personal hygiene: This includes things like wiping from back to front after using the washroom or using sanitary products longer than recommended.
- – Sexual intercourse: During sex, bacteria can make its way up the urethra to the bladder. Your risk is increased if you have sex frequently or have multiple sexual partners.
- – Diabetes: Having diabetes increases your risk of developing a UTI due to high blood glucose levels and poor circulation.
- – Kidney stones: If kidney stones become lodged within the urinary tract, it increases your risk of developing an infection.
- – Menopause: Menopause involves hormonal changes that can impact vaginal bacteria. This change could make you more likely to develop a UTI.
- – Suppressed immune system: Having a suppressed immune system makes it more difficult for your body to fight infections, including UTIs.
- – Tampons: If tampons are not changed often enough, it encourages the growth of bacteria. This bacteria could enter the urinary tract resulting in a UTI.
A Few More Possible Causes:
- – Some forms of contraception: Use of spermicide can irritate the vagina making you more susceptible to developing a UTI. If you are prone to developing UTIs, oral contraceptives are recommended over barrier methods.
- – Heavy use of antibiotics: Antibiotics are known to disrupt your body’s natural flora, but the effect is increased through heavy usage. This disruption encourages “bad” bacteria to multiply, so it can take over in the form of an infection. You can sometimes use probiotics to counteract these effects.
- – Urinary tract procedures: Urinary tract procedures like a cystoscopy can introduce bacteria into the urethra and bladder. To help avoid this, doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics as a preventive measure.
- – Bowel incontinence: Bowel incontinence happens when you are unable to control your bowel movements causing you to leak solid or liquid stool. Bacteria living in stool can find its way into the urinary tract system triggering an infection.
- – Having a urinary catheter: A urinary catheter is a small, narrow tube that is passed through the bladder to help drain urine. People with urinary catheters are prone to UTIs because bacteria can be introduced into the urinary tract through the catheter.
- – Urine retention: Urine retention refers to difficulty empty the bladder. Urine is naturally sterile and its natural flow helps stop bacteria from entering through the urethra. When you have difficulty emptying the bladder, opportunistic bacteria can invade the urinary tract.
Is A Urinary Tract Infection An STD?
No. Urinary tract infections are not considered STDs and they aren’t contagious. However, it is possible to pass the bacteria responsible for the infection back and forth between partners.
This is made possible through bacteria entering the vagina from the anus or by bacteria being pushed into the vagina by a penis.
How To Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection
You might not be able to avoid getting a UTI forever, but there are steps you can take to prevent your risk.
Wipe From Front To Back
Since the opening of your urethra is close to your anus, it’s important to wipe from front to back after using the washroom. This will help reduce the risk of bacteria like E.coli making its way to your bladder.
Pee After Having Sex
After having sex you’ll want to prevent the risk of a UTI so this tip is one you don’t want to miss. Peeing helps flush bacteria out of the urethra that may have been pushed there during penetration.
If you don’t feel like you need to pee, drink a glass of water to help activate your bladder.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Staying hydrated has many benefits, including clearing bacteria from the urethra. You can tell you are hydrated through the color of your urine, which should be a pale shade of yellow.
It’s also important to limit your coffee and alcohol intake. They can irritate the bladder and cause you to become dehydrated.
Practice Safe Sex Habits
Sex increases the risk of developing a UTI by potentially introducing bacteria to the urethra. You can reduce this risk by using non-spermicidal condoms, peeing after sex, and wiping the area around your genitals with water. These recommendations will help reduce the likelihood of bacteria wreaking havoc on your urinary tract.
Maintain A Healthy Bladder
You can also maintain bladder and urinary tract health by using a supplement like VeeTract. Since it’s a daily supplement geared towards bladder health it can really help decrease UTI risks. It’s a small and easy change to make that can make a big difference.
How Long Does A Urinary Tract Infection Last?
With UTIs, symptoms should improve within a day or two of starting antibiotic treatment. Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor may prescribe between three and seven days worth of antibiotic treatment.
If you don’t notice your symptoms improving within a week, it’s time to contact your doctor again. You’ll want to watch out for possible complications or other infections.
When treated properly, UTIs generally don’t cause any major issues. If the infection isn’t treated, serious complications may occur.
Some women experience recurrent UTIs. This is defined as two or more infections within six months or four infections within a one-year period. Sometimes this happens when the original infection isn’t treated properly, but it could be the result of an underlying medical issue.
If you experience recurrent UTIs, it is important to let your doctor know. They may prescribe a different type of antibiotic or recommend testing to be done.
Untreated, UTIs increase your risk of developing a serious complication called sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s extreme response to an infection.
Instead of focusing on the infection, your body sends signals that begin attacking tissues and organs. In severe cases, this can lead to permanent damage or death. The good news is that this is a rare complication and easily avoided by treating your UTI quickly.
Possible Pre-Term Labor
If a UTI is left untreated it might cause kidney damage resulting in preterm delivery. If you are pregnant and think that you have UTI, make an appointment with your doctor right away. Just like anything else while pregnant, it’s important to get treated quickly and safely. Don’t use any home remedies without talking to your doctor first.
How Is It Treated?
If you think that you have a UTI, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam to rule out other potential causes. They’ll also want to get a urine sample to check for bacteria in your urine.
Antibiotics are generally prescribed when it comes to treating urinary tract infections. The type of antibiotic and treatment length will depend on the type of bacteria found in your urine and your overall health condition.
Once you have started taking antibiotics for your UTI, you should start to see an improvement in your symptoms within a few days. You will need to continue taking your antibiotics until the entire treatment is done. Do not stop taking them just because your symptoms have improved.
Will A UTI Go Away On Its Own?
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, so they generally require an antibiotic to get rid of it. However, it is possible for uncomplicated UTIs to resolve themselves using home remedies like cranberry juice. You could also consider using hibiscus extracts to decrease UTI frequency.
If you don’t notice improvement within a few days, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Remember that a UTI is easily managed. As long as you don’t delay treatment you should be back to yourself within a few days.
Sarah Nelson is a nurse with 15 years of experience working with a variety of patients. She has a Masters of Science in Nursing and has spent a large portion of her career working exclusively with women in an OB/GYN setting.
Nursing is a passion for Sarah but she also enjoys writing and sharing her expertise online with people who need helpful information. Treating patients well and helping them learn more about their own bodies is a key essential to a healthy lifestyle that Sarah truly believes in.