What Is A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and Who Is At Risk?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) among women are extremely common. The majority of women have at least one urinary tract infection each year while some may even experience several.
These infections are typically caused by bacteria from the colorectal region migrating from the rectum to the urethral opening and into the bladder. Women with a shorter perineum (the space between the rectum and vaginal opening) have a higher risk of developing urinary tract infections, as bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to cause an infection. This is why men are less likely to develop urinary tract infections; the distance between the penis and the rectum is significantly longer, so bacteria can’t travel as easily.
Patients who have a higher risk of a more serious infection include those with diabetes or a suppressed immune system as well as those who are pregnant or have not treated their bladder infection with the appropriate antibiotics.
How Do I Know If I Have A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
Symptoms of urinary tract infection have been well-documented and include the following:
- Dysuria: A painful burning sensation associated with urination
- Urinary frequency: Needing to urinate two to three times more per day than usual
- Urinary urgency: A sudden and urgent need to urinate that comes on faster than usual and sometimes results in a small amount of urinary incontinence
- Suprapubic pain: Pain in the belly, just below the beltline, in the anatomical location of your bladder
- Hematuria: Blood in the urine, indicated by a change in the color of the urine to a pink or red color
Urinary tract infections are not usually accompanied by vaginal symptoms, such as itchiness or discharge. The presence of these symptoms could mean that the patient has a secondary infection, such as a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted disease. You will need to speak with a physician to determine the cause of any additional symptoms.
Are Urinary Tract Infections Sexually Transmitted?
UTIs are not considered sexually transmitted infections because they aren’t passed from one person to the next. However, the risk of developing a UTI increases dramatically after sexual intercourse. See below for advice on preventing intercourse-related urinary tract infections.
How Can I Prevent Recurring UTIs Related to Intercourse?
This is a common question among women who often have to see the doctor more than three times a year for urinary tract infections. The best way to prevent UTIs, since the majority are associated with sexual intercourse, is to go to the restroom and urinate within 30 minutes to an hour after having sex. This helps to flush the bacteria from the urethra, and it will dramatically reduce your risk of infection.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Urinary Tract Infections?
If you have at least one of the symptoms below without vaginal itchiness or discharge, there is more than a 90% chance that you have a urinary tract infection. If you have two or more of these symptoms, there is more than a 96% chance you have a UTI.
- Increased urinary frequency
Oftentimes, medical offices and urgent care facilities will charge you for unnecessary UTI tests when it’s already clear that you have a UTI. In situations like these, there is no need to run any tests, so you don’t need to spend the money and time at the doctor for situations like these.
These are some instances, however, when it is necessary to consider testing:
- If vaginal symptoms are present
- If you have a fever measuring over 100.5 F
- If you are immunosuppressed or pregnant
- If you utilize a long term indwelling urinary catheter
All urinary tract infections require antibiotics and patients should never wait for urinary tract infections to resolve on their own. While some of them will resolve on their own, there is a significant enough risk for developing serious kidney infections when the bacteria ascend up to the kidneys and infects the bloodstream. Patients with kidney infections require hospitalization and IV antibiotics. This is considered a life-threatening infection and so all patients are recommended to receive antibiotic treatment for their urinary tract infection. Antibiotics are not available over the counter, so you will need to schedule a visit with your doctor.
How Are Urinary Tract Infections Treated?
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics to reduce symptoms and prevent bad bacteria from ascending to the kidneys. An infection of the kidneys is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection that requires admission to the hospital for an IV.
You should work closely with your doctor to choose the right antibiotics for you based on your medical history and preferences. Many women develop yeast infections associated with the use of antibiotics. If this is the case, let your doctor know and they can prescribe you Fluconazole to help prevent the onset of a yeast infection.