Some people think of UTIs, or urinary tract infections, as just part of being a woman. However, both women and men can develop UTIs, though they are more common in women. Some women experience them occasionally, and others chronically. UTIs can cause pain or discomfort during urination, pelvic pain, more frequent urination, and more.
Here’s your guide to UTIs: their causes, symptoms, and how to treat and prevent them.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection in the urinary system, which includes the bladder, kidneys, uterus, and urethra. They are the second most common type of infection in the body. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urethra and infect the urinary system. In some cases, UTIs are caused by fungi or more rarely by viruses.
There are three different types of UTIs, each distinguished by which part of the urinary tract they affect:
- Cystitis: affects the bladder
- Urethritis: affects the urethra
- Pyelonephritis: affects the kidneys, which can be more serious
What causes a UTI?
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria entering the urinary system through the urethra, but certain factors and risks can make you more susceptible to UTIs. Cystitis is often caused by E. coli, commonly found in the GI tract, and can also result from sexual intercourse.
Urethritis can also occur when GI bacteria travel from the anus to the urethra. Women are more susceptible to UTIs due to their anatomy and the proximity between the anus and urethra.
Additional causes and risk factors of UTIs include:
- A previous UTI
- Poor hygiene
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Weak immune system
- Blockages in the urinary tract (kidney stones, an enlarged prostate in men)
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
UTI symptoms vary depending on the type of UTI. Symptoms of bladder infections, or urethritis or cystitis, mostly affect urination and may include:
- Painful urination or a burning sensation when urinating
- Increased frequency and urgency of urination
- Cloudy urine
- Strong or foul-smelling urine
- Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis
Symptoms of kidney infections include:
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the flank (sides of the body below the rib cage)
How are UTIs treated?
UTI treatment depends on the cause. If you’re experiencing UTI symptoms, your doctor can diagnose the UTI, determine which part of the urinary system is infected, and prescribe treatment. Most commonly, bacterial UTIs are treated with antibiotics. A UTI resulting from fungi or a virus will be treated with antifungal or antiviral medications respectively.
Oral antibiotics will typically treat lower tract UTIs. However, upper urinary tract infections may need to be treated with intravenous antibiotics.
Can UTIs be prevented?
UTIs can’t always be avoided, but there are ways to reduce the risk of developing a urinary tract infection. To prevent a UTI, you need to avoid the spread of bacteria in the genital area.
A few ways to do this include: wiping from front to back when using the restroom to keep GI bacteria away from the urethra, drinking plenty of urine to promote more frequent urination and the flushing of bacteria from the urinary tract, urinating before and after sex, and avoiding products like douches, scented pads or tampons, scented powders, and deodorant sprays. You should also avoid holding your urine, which can promote bacterial growth.
If you experience recurrent UTIs, talk to your gynecologist about what treatments may work for you. They may prescribe a low dose of daily oral antibiotics or have other recommendations to reduce the recurrence of infections.
Contact Green Valley OB/GYN
If you need help managing UTIs, contact your gynecologist. Green Valley OB/GYN has been providing the highest quality of obstetric and gynecological care for over 70 years, offering a comprehensive list of services. To set up an appointment or talk about your health, call Green Valley OB/GYN at (336) 378-1110 to schedule an appointment.