Urinary tract infections can range from the harmless but uncomfortable to dangerous and life-threatening infections. They’re incredibly common, but are also subject to lots of myths and misbeliefs:
What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
A UTI happens when bacteria infect the urinary tract. This often means an infection in the “lower tract” – the bladder and the urethra that connects your bladder to the outside of your body. In more serious infections, it could also spread to include the “upper tract,” as far as your kidneys.
Urinary tract Infections are often caused by a type of E.coli found in your digestive system, but it could be other bacteria instead or as well.
How Do You Get a UTI?
Urinary tract infections often start when foreign bacteria get into the urethra from the outside.
For complicated reasons that doctors and researchers are still investigating, some people are more prone to infections. We do know that if you have had UTIs before, you’re much more likely to have more, and that women are much more vulnerable due to the location and shortness of their urethra in comparison to men.
While urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, UTIs are not contagious and can’t be caught from someone else.
Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
Depending on severity and differences between individuals, symptoms may change, but very commonly experienced signs of a UTI are:
- Strong urge to urinate, but small amounts of urine produced
- Frequent urination
- Burning sensation when urinating and/or pelvic pain
- Cloudy, red, pink, or brown coloured urine, with possible strong odour
- Potential flank pain
- Possible fever
Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection
If you have a UTI that is causing significant discomfort or has not resolved on its own, you can go to your doctor or local clinic, where they can diagnose the UTI with some simple tests, and then discuss treatment options with you.
To ease symptoms at home or while your treatment takes effect, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Many people find relief by drinking cranberry juice, but avoid juices with added sugars as they can increase the growth of bacteria.
Risk of UTIs
While lower tract infections are often easy to resolve, they risk becoming more serious health issues. These infections can spread upwards in the urinary tract and start to affect the kidneys, causing symptoms like fever, flank pain, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. A kidney infection is serious and needs the care of a doctor to resolve.
Women are more vulnerable to UTIs due to their anatomy, but people with disabilities and the elderly are even more prone to infection, where they can be easily missed and become life-threatening issues. Proper hygiene and preventing infection is important for everyone to avoid the risks.
It is recommended that people clean themselves from front to back after going to the washroom so that they don’t risk spreading bacteria from the anus forward to the urethra. It’s also recommended that you avoid holding your urine for an extended period of time, so you should go to the washroom frequently. Keep the genital area clean and dry, and change sanitary products like tampons and pads regularly. Sexually active people of any gender should make sure they go to the washroom after intercourse to help prevent infection.
It’s recommended to stay hydrated and always drink lots of water to not only ease infection symptoms but to avoid new infections as well.
Urinary tract infections can be annoying and uncomfortable. In the event of an infection, there are still lots of options for relief and your healthcare team can help you to avoid serious complications and get rid of your infection quickly.