A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Although most UTIs involve the lower urinary tract, i.e. the bladder and the urethra, UTIs can also occur in the kidneys and ureters.
Although UTIs occur in both women and men, women have a greater risk of developing this type of infection. Painful and annoying when the UTI is limited to the bladder, serious consequences can occur if the infection spreads to the kidneys.
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, these defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
- Infection of the bladder (cystitis)
This type of UTI is usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, sometimes other bacteria are responsible.
Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, but it can develop without sexual activity as well. All women are at risk of cystitis because of their anatomy; specifically, the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder.
- Infection of the urethra (urethritis)
This type of UTI can occur when gastrointestinal bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. And, because the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma, can cause urethritis.
Urinary tract infections are typically treated with antibiotics; however, there are measures you can take to reduce your chances of getting a UTI in the first place, such as…
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water.
Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you’ll urinate more frequently, which flushes bacteria from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Drink cranberry juice.
Studies are inconclusive that cranberry juice prevents UTIs, but it is likely not harmful and, again, will help flush infection causing bacteria from the urinary tract.
- Wipe from front to back.
Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
- Empty your bladder soon after intercourse to help flush bacteria.
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products.
Deodorant sprays and other feminine products, such as douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
- Change your birth control method.
Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.
Symptoms to watch for vary based on the part of the urinary tract infected:
- Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis)
- Upper back and side (flank) pain
- High fever
- Shaking and chills
- Bladder (cystitis)
- Pelvic pressure
- Lower abdomen discomfort
- Frequent, painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Urethra (urethritis)
- Burning with urination
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, have other reasons to suspect a urinary tract infection (UTI), or desire additional information, please call the Urology Group of Princeton (609.924.6487) to schedule an appointment.