Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A Urinary Tract Infection, or what is commonly referred to as UTI, is an infection found in the urinary system. Most parts that are affected by this infection are the bladder, kidney, urethra, and ureters. This infection is more prevalent in women compared to men, with a lot of them experiencing repeated infections over the years. The infection can cause a lot of discomfort, while some people can wrongly mistake it for a sexually transmitted infection. Fortunately, it is possible to treat it and even prevent its recurrence by visiting an experienced gynecologist. At Gyn LA, we have a team of gynecologists that will not only treat the infection but will give you tips on how to avoid it.
Symptoms That Show You are Suffering From a UTI
As earlier mentioned, some of the symptoms mimic those of a sexually transmitted infection. However, it is best to see your gynecologist if experiencing any of the following symptoms. This is essential in order to ascertain the problem and get treatment. These symptoms include:
- When one pees, experiencing a burning sensation
- Frequently having a pressing need to pee, and sometimes the very little is released when one goes to the bathroom
- The urine is characterized by a bloody, cloudy, dark appearance and will smell strange
- Having the shakes and feeling fatigued
- If the infection has affected your kidneys, you may experience chills or fever
- Experiencing pressure or pain on your lower abdomen or back
Types of Urinary Tract Infections
Various parts of the urinary tract can suffer from an infection. Depending on where the disease is, the name of the infection is different. These types are:
- Cystitis (bladder): when one is suffering from this kind of an infection, they will experience frequent urge to pee. Additionally, one may experience pain in their lower abdomen and when peeing. The urine may appear bloody or cloudy as well.
- Pyelonephritis (Kidneys): when the infection is in the kidneys, a person may experience chills, fever, vomiting, or nausea. In some cases, the person may experience intense pain on their side or upper back.
- Urethritis (Urethra): it is the kind of infection found in the urethra. The person suffering from it will experience a strange discharge from the norm as well as pain when peeing.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infections?
Doctors advise ladies to clean from the front to the back to avoid UTI. This is because the urethra is next to the anus, and if one wipes from the anus to the front, they can quickly move bacteria to the urethra. The large intestines have bacterial like the E. coli, which can be found at the anus. This bacterium can easily be transferred from the anus to the urethra and the bladder. This will, in turn, cause an infection, and when not treated, it can have various effects on one’s kidneys.
Compared to men, women have short urethras. This allows for the ease of moving the bacterium to their bladder. Sexual intercourse can also introduce the bacterium to the urinary tract.
Urinary tract infections are also prevalent among some women due to their genes. Others are more susceptible to infection because of how their urinary tract is shaped. Women that have diabetes have a high chance of getting urinary tract infections. This is because their immune system is weak and unable to fight against infections effectively. Hormonal changes in women, multiple sclerosis, among other issues that may affect the flow of urine such as stroke, kidney stones, and injuries to the spinal cord, also increase the chances of getting a UTI.
Testing and Diagnosing UTI
With the above-discussed symptoms, if you think you may have a UTI, going to see your gynecologist is the best thing to do. The doctor will ask you to give a sample of your urine to examine it for bacteria causing the UTI.
If you frequently suffer from urinary tract infections and your gynecologist is suspicious that your urinary tract needs more evaluation, he or she may order more tests. Tests such as an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound will help get a closer look to establish the problem. Your doctor can also opt to use a tube known as a cystoscope that helps look inside the bladder or urethra.
Most people assume ultrasound is only for pregnant women, where the doctor wants to look into the baby in the womb. However, ultrasound can be used to diagnose various conditions that affect soft tissues or organs in the body. A doctor can use ultrasound to examine the heart, liver, blood vessels, kidneys, pancreas, bladder, eyes, testicles, thyroid, ovaries, and uterus.
MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging
This is a test that gives detailed pictures of parts of your body through the use of a computer and powerful radio waves and magnetic. MRIs are ideal for monitoring disease and how well a patient is responding to treatment. A doctor can order a patient with UTI symptoms to undergo this testing to determine how infected they are and where the infection is located to give appropriate treatment.
Treating Urinary Tract Infections
The most popular treatment for UTI infections is the administration of antibiotics. If your doctor finds it necessary for you to take them, then he or she will prescribe them with a warning to ensure you take them as advised. Some people stop taking their medications when they begin to feel well; this is wrong. Ensure to complete taking the prescribed drugs to avoid the recurrence of the infection.
In addition to taking the antibiotics, your gynecologist may prescribe pain medications to help with the pain when peeing. A heating pad may also be issued to ease the pain as well. The doctor will also advise you to drink plenty of water to help get rid of the bacteria.
Patients are also advised to drink cranberry juice for the treatment and prevention of UTIs. The tannin found in the red berries helps prevent the E. coli bacteria from attaching itself to the bladder walls. Currently, extensive research is being carried out to come up with new methods of treating and preventing UTIs. Vaccines and other things that help boost the immune system are among what is being researched.
Chronic Urinary Tract Infection
When a disease is described as chronic, it means it keeps recurring despite treatment. UTI can be persistent in both women and men. A majority of women suffer from chronic UTI compared to men. However, for each recurring infection, a different strain or type of bacteria is responsible.
Some strains are very stubborn. They get into a person’s body cells and increase rapidly and create an antibiotic-resistant bacteria colony. They can also move from the body cells and attack a person’s urinary tract again.
Treating Chronic Urinary Tract Infections
If a person suffers from two or more infections to the urinary tract in a year, they need to speak to their gynecologist to suggest a treatment regimen. Multiple options are available with some of them being:
- Being prescribed for a low antibiotic dosage to be taken over a prolonged period. This is useful in preventing repeat infections
- Sex is a popular trigger for a UTI. A doctor can recommend taking one dosage of antibiotics following sexual intercourse
- A doctor can prescribe for one to be taking antibiotics every time the symptoms recur for one or two days.
- Being subjected to a prophylaxis treatment that is a non-antibiotic.
A person that suffers from chronic infections can also do urine tests at home. This will help determine if there is a need to see a doctor or not. The home urine tests will also help a patient see if the infection is cleared, although this does not excuse a person from finishing their prescription.
Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
Although infections to the urinary tract can be treated, preventing them is better than treatment. There are a few things a gynecologist will advise you to do in order to avoid infections. These will include:
- Many people hold in their pee until they are unable to hold it anymore for them to pee. This is not good for your bladder. Always ensure your bladder is emptied when you feel you need to. While doing it, do not be in a hurry; instead, ensure that your bladder is completely empty of the urine.
- After using the toilet, how you wipe yourself matters. Avoid wiping from back to front because this will bring the bacterium from the anus to the urethra. Instead, clean from the front to the back.
- Drinking water cannot be overemphasized. Drink plenty of water to flush out any toxins and bacteria
- Bathtubs can breed bacteria. It is better to take a shower as opposed to baths to prevent infections
- Using feminine scented sprays, douches, or bath products can increase irritation to the urinary tract. Instead, use clean water.
- Clean your genital areas well before sex. Sex is one of the primary triggers of urinary tract infections. Ensuring one is clean will prevent the transfer of bacteria to the urethra.
- Ensure to pee after sexual intercourse. This helps flush out bacteria that could have been transported to your urethra
- The bath control method you use matters. If you have been using unlubricated condoms, spermicidal jelly, or diaphragm, it is best to change. Spermicides and unlubricated condoms irritate the urinary tract, while diaphragms encourage the multiplication of bacteria.
- Ensure your genitals are kept dry. This can be achieved by putting on cotton underwear as well as avoiding tight clothes. Avoid nylon underwear and tight jeans at all costs. These are known to trap moisture that makes an excellent breeding ground for bacteria to grow.
Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy
As earlier stated, the body’s urinary system is where urinary tract infections happen. Anyone can get a urinary tract infection, although they are prevalent in women. Pregnant women also get UTIs, but they are of a concern when they do. If one is pregnant and experiences symptoms of urinary tract infection, they should inform their doctor, and with care, both mother and child will be fine.
Many of the infections are centered around the urethra and bladder. However, in some cases, some others can experience kidney infection. If this happens, it can result in premature labor or birth, and the child will have low weight at birth.
This is also known as preterm labor. This is when a mother’s body gets ready to give birth too early into the pregnancy. When labor starts three weeks or more before the due date, it is premature. When a pregnant woman experiences early labor, it will result in early birth. However, it is possible to delay delivery with the advancement of technology and medicine. It is always best to allow a child to keep growing until they are full term to avoid complications in the future.
A variety of things can increase the risk of a mother going into early labor. One of them is suffering from a urinary tract infection that infects the mother’s kidneys. It is, however, important to recognize the symptoms of premature labor to save yourself and your child. When you are having a urinary tract infection and are pregnant, it is crucial to watch out for the following signs that may indicate early labor:
- Watch out for consistent backache. The pain in your lower back may be continuous or may come and go. Despite what you may do, the pain may not cease.
- Watch out for contractions. These may appear every ten or fewer minutes
- Cramps are also a sign of going into labor. If you experience cramps like those when one is on their menses, you may need to speak to your doctor
- Fluid is not supposed to leak from your vagina. If this is happening, it could be a sign that your water has broken
- If you feel excessively nauseated, diarrhea or vomit, it could be a sign of premature labor
- Experiencing excessive pressure around your vagina or pelvis is also a sign of preterm labor
- Urinary tract infections can also lead to the discharge of the vagina. When the discharge is more than usual, it may be a sign of premature labor
- Bleeding in the vagina should not be taken lightly regardless of the flow. Talk to your doctor immediately you experience this.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy
- Pregnant ladies tend to pee more than those not pregnant. However, if you often feel you urgently need to pee and more frequently than before, it could be a sign of a UTI
- If when you go to pee, it becomes challenging to come out, it may also be a symptom of a UTI
- If you experience like your lower belly or back is cramping, it may be a sign of a UTI
- When you experience a burning sensation while you pee, consult your gynecologist because you could be having a UTI
- If you notice your urine appears cloudy or has a strange smell, it could be you have a urinary tract infection.
Why the Prevalence of UTI Infection is High among Pregnant Women
Urinary tract infections are a common occurrence among pregnant due to the reason for hormones. Hormonal changes during pregnancy also affects the urinary tract making pregnant women more vulnerable to infections.
Additionally, as the pregnancy grows, the uterus presses on the bladder. This makes it difficult to release all the urine from the bladder. Earlier, we had discussed the need to ensure that your bladder is completely empty. When the bladder is pressed, one cannot release all the urine, and any leftover urine, in many cases, is the reason for the infection.
Diagnosing UTI in Pregnancy
If you experience or notice any of the previously discussed symptoms, you will need to visit your gynecologist to ensure you are taken care of and your unborn child too. Once at the clinic, you will be required to submit a urine sample for testing. The urine will be tested for white and red blood cells as well as bacteria. In order to understand the bacteria in your urine, a urine culture is carried out. This is important in establishing the kind of treatment one receives.
Treating UTI in Pregnancy
Treating UTI infections in a pregnant woman is a delicate issue because both the health of the mother and the unborn child are taken into consideration. Typically, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics to be taken for three to seven days.
If your infection is severe and causes a lot of discomfort, your doctor can opt to begin treating you even before getting the results from your urine sample. Usually, in about three days, symptoms should disappear. However, this does not mean that one is well treated, or the infection has cleared. Doctors recommend for one to finish taking the medication even when the symptoms disappear. After the dosage is completed, another urine test can be carried out to ensure the infection is gone.
Risk Factors for UTI
As earlier stated, women have a high prevalence of urinary tract infections as compared to men. Most women experience this infection more than once in their lifetime. Various factors increase the risk of UTIs in women. These are:
- Female Anatomy. – A man has a short urethra while a woman has a short one. A short urethra makes it easier for bacteria to move up the bladder as opposed to when the urethra is longer.
- Sexual activity – women that are more sexually active tend to get infected more than those less engaged. Sex is one of the primary triggers for UTI in grownups. Changing sexual partners also increases the chance of suffering from a UTI.
- Birth Control – certain kinds of birth control increase the risk of getting a urinary tract infection. Those that use products with spermicidal agents or diaphragms are more at risk of getting a urinary tract infection.
- Menopause – when a woman reaches menopause, they face a declining circulation of estrogen. This affects the urinary tract making it easier to get infected.
- Abnormalities of the urinary tract – a deformity of the urinary tract can cause an increase in the risk of getting an infection. Some children can be born with an abnormality that does not permit urine to leave the body regularly, but instead, it backs up to the urethra. This abnormality also increases the risk of getting an infection because of the held up urine.
- Urinary tract blockage – if one has a kidney stone or anything that blocks urine from getting entirely released from the bladder, he or she is at an increased risk of getting a urinary tract infection.
- A weak immune system – some diseases such as diabetes, among others, affect the immune system. This means that the body is not able to fight against infections when its immunity is low. As a result, individuals suffering from these are highly likely to suffer from UTIs.
- Catheter use – due to one reason or another, some individuals are unable to pee on their own. These people are fitted with a tube known as catheters to assist them in urinating. Such individuals are also at a high risk of getting a urinary tract infection.
- A urinary procedure – if a person underwent a urinary procedure in the recent past, they are also at a higher risk of getting an infection. This was when some medical instruments were used that increases the risk of disease.
Consequences or Complications of Urinary Tract Infections
If one gets treated for a UTI promptly and adheres to the treatment, it is unlikely the infections will result in complications. However, if one ignores the infection and leave it untreated, it can result in severe consequences. These may include:
- When not treated well, a woman can experience recurring infections that can be even more than two in six months
- Chronic or acute kidney infection can lead to permanent damage to the kidneys. This is often as a result of untreated urinary tract infection.
- When a woman is pregnant, it increases the risk of them giving birth to a child that is underweight and prematurely
- Sepsis can also be as a result of untreated urinary tract infection. This is a life-threatening consequence as it can affect kidneys extensively.
Find a Gynecology Near Me
Urinary tract infections are more common than you can imagine and can lead to severe consequences if not adequately treated. As discussed, there are measures one can take to prevent them, but once the symptoms are experienced, it is best to see a doctor. An experienced gynecologist will help you avoid any prolonged complications as well as help you treat it and prevent the discomfort that comes with it. At Gyn LA, we have a team of experienced and knowledgeable gynecologists that will help manage the infection to avoid dire consequences. Call us at 310-375-8446 and make an appointment to discuss your case in detail.