Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that can affect any part of your urinary system. While highly treatable with a course of antibiotics, UTI symptoms can become serious if left untreated.
It’s important then to know how to spot a UTI, understand what causes the infection, when to seek UTI treatment and prevention tips for future UTIs.
What Causes a UTI?
A UTI is caused by bacteria, and to a lesser extent, fungi, entering the urinary tract. The most common UTI is a bladder infection or cystitis, but it can also appear in the urethra as urethritis or spread to the kidneys as pyelonephritis. Kidney infections are the most severe type of UTI and can be more complicated to treat.
So how do you get a UTI?
Bacteria can enter the urinary tract in several ways. In adult women, who are at a much higher risk of developing a UTI than adult men, an infection often occurs following sexual activity. A woman’s anatomy is to blame for that higher risk. Their urethras are shorter and closer to the anus, a source of UTI-causing bacteria.
In children, UTIs can be caused by toileting habits and hygiene. Children who have difficulties emptying their bladders during urination or abnormalities in their urinary tract like stones or blockages may also be at higher risk for more frequent infections.
There are many additional risk factors that increase the chances of developing a UTI or that can make treating a UTI more complicated:
- A previous history of UTIs
- Holding in urine
- Being sexually active
- Certain sexually transmitted diseases
- Birth control methods such as diaphragms or spermicides
- Pregnancy and hormonal changes, e.g., menopause, perimenopause
- Medical devices such as catheters
- Chronic conditions that affect the immune system, like diabetes
Your urinary tract can fight off much of the bacteria it encounters if you have a strong, healthy immune system. When that doesn’t happen, an infection can occur, often with a series of noticeable symptoms.
Classic UTI symptoms in the early stages are an urgent need to urinate and a painful, burning sensation during urination. Additional symptoms to watch out for include:
- Passing small amounts of urine or having difficulty urinating
- Discolored (pink, red, brown) or cloudy urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- General malaise or fatigue
- Pain or pressure near the naval in children
- Pelvic pain or pelvic pressure in women
If a UTI progresses beyond those initial symptoms, you may need to seek more emergent treatment. More severe UTI symptoms include:
- High fever
- Chills, rigors, shaking
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Lower back pain
- Extreme fatigue
It’s important to note that irritation or discomfort doesn’t always mean you have a UTI. Yeast infections and some sexually transmitted diseases can cause similar symptoms, especially in the early stages of infection.
Seek medical attention immediately if you’re experiencing any of the more severe symptoms above. Most common cases of UTIs aren’t considered an emergency but should be treated as soon as possible to prevent those more serious symptoms from setting in.
Most urinary tract infections are treatable with a course of antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare provider. UTIs are one of the most common infections out there. With the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, you shouldn’t suffer any lingering side effects.
How long does a UTI last?
If you’re suffering from a less severe bladder infection, your UTI symptoms may go away within a day or two of starting treatment. A more serious kidney infection may take up to 14 days to resolve with UTI treatment. It truly depends on how complicated your case is, the strength of your immune system, even the strain of bacteria your body is dealing with.
UTI care doesn’t have to happen through your primary care physician, either. If you’re suffering from UTI symptoms, an urgent care center like Reliant can be the efficient and effective answer to treating your UTI symptoms as soon as they start.
How to Prevent UTIs
You know how to get rid of a UTI, but what about prevention? There are ways to give your body a better chance at keeping UTI symptoms at bay.
- Drink lots of water. Keeping yourself well-hydrated allows your bladder and urinary system to flush out harmful bacteria more effectively.
- Practice proper hygiene. Wipe front to back after trips to the bathroom, especially after bowel movements, and teach children to do the same. Always empty your bladder completely after urination. That can mean more frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Take charge of your sexual health. Women should urinate after sexual activity and avoid hygienic products that could prove irritating. Birth control methods that promote bacteria growth may need to be swapped out for other contraceptives. Always practice safe sex, as certain sexually transmitted diseases can increase your risk for UTIs.
- Boost Vitamin C intake. Unsweetened Cranberry juice is already a common suggestion for UTI prevention and treatment. Vitamin C overall fights bacteria production, making the urine more acidic.
- Follow a healthy diet. A diet high in fiber and rich in the vitamins and minerals your body needs will promote robust immune system health. A stronger immune system is more likely to fight off potential infections before they become a problem.
When to Seek Help
UTIs can get serious if left untreated. While most cases aren’t an emergency unless symptoms have progressed to a more serious level, you should find care for a UTI as soon as possible if you’re experiencing any UTI symptoms. Most urgent care locations in Los Angeles are well-equipped to handle UTI treatment and care and will have you feeling much better soon.
If you’re worried that what you’re suffering from is UTI symptoms, contact the healthcare team at Reliant. We also offer virtual care appointments if you’re not sure whether you should visit in person.