If you’ve ever experienced a urinary tract infection, you know the symptoms: a burning sensation when you urinate, the feeling that you need to go to the bathroom often (and fast!) even though little urine may come out, pain or pressure in your abdomen, chills, or even fever – these are all telltale symptoms of a urinary traction infection, or UTI.
Urinary tract infections are very common – in fact, it has been reported that half of women have experienced at least 1 UTI by the age of 35, with some women experiencing them every year. And while they are more common in women and the elderly, men can get UTIs too.
So, what causes a UTI? And how do you treat them?
Causes of Urinary Tract Infections
Most UTIs are caused by an infection of the bladder, kidneys or the urethra, with the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) usually to blame (though not always). E. coli is commonly found in the GI tract. Anything that introduces new bacteria to this area can put you at a greater risk for developing a urinary tract infection.
Anyone can get a UTI, but some people are more at risk than others. Some risk factors include:
Poor personal hygiene
Some forms of contraception
Certain medications or antibiotics
Poor immune system
Trouble emptying your bladder
UTIs can occur in the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. Most bladder infections are easily treatable, but kidney infections can cause lasting damage and can be life-threatening if bacteria enter the bloodstream.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
Symptoms of a UTI aren’t pleasant, and if you’ve experienced one UTI, you’ll likely know if you are starting to experience another.
Common symptoms of a UTI can include:
The feeling that you need to urinate often (sometimes without making it to the bathroom)
A strong urge to urinate
A painful or burning sensation when urinating
Cloudy colored urine (sometimes associated with a strong smell)
Blood in the urine
Nausea and/or vomiting
Urinary Tract Infection Treatments
UTI’s are generally treated with antibiotics. However, as with many things, prevention is key here. There are many things you can do to avoid getting a UTI in the first place:
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps to dilute your urine and flush bacteria from your urinary tract before it’s able to start an infection.
Drink Cranberry juice
Be diligent about personal hygiene
Wipe correctly. Because a woman’s urethra is so close to the anus, it’s important to always wipe from front to back to avoid passing bacteria to the vagina and urethra.
Use the bathroom after sex. This helps flush away any new bacteria that may have been introduced through a new partner or certain types of contraception. If you’re experiencing UTIs, you may also want to try a new type of contraceptive.
Avoid irritating feminine products that may irritate the urethra.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of a UTI, see your doctor right away. Antibiotics typically work quickly and are the most effective at eliminating symptoms a UTI fast.