What is a urinary tract infection?
Your urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. It includes your bladder and kidneys and the tubes that connect them. When germs get into this system, they can cause an infection. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bladder infections. A bladder infection usually is not serious if it is treated right away. If you do not take care of a bladder infection, it can spread to your kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause permanent damage.
What causes urinary tract infections?
Usually, germs get into your system through your urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body. The germs that usually cause these infections live in your large intestine and are found in your stool. If these germs get inside your urethra, they can travel up into your bladder and kidneys and cause an infection.
Women tend to get more bladder infections than men. This is probably because women have shorter urethras, so it is easier for the germs to move up to their bladders. Having sex can make it easier for germs to get into a woman’s urethra.
You may be more likely to get an infection if you have diabetes or you are pregnant. The chance that you will get a bladder infection is higher if you have any problem that blocks the flow of urine from your bladder. Examples include having kidney stones or an enlarged prostate gland.
For reasons that are not well understood, some women get bladder infections again and again.
What are the symptoms?
You may have an infection if you have any of these symptoms:
· You feel pain or burning when you urinate.
· You feel like you have to urinate often, but not much urine comes out when you do.
· You have pain in your lower belly.
· Your urine is cloudy, looks pink or red, or smells bad or notice blood in your urine.
· You have pain on one side of your back under your ribs. This is where your kidneys are.
· You have fever and chills.
· You have nausea and vomiting.
· Feeling tired and unwell.
· Changes in behaviour in older people including agitation and severe confusion.
Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection and:
· You have a fever, nausea and vomiting, or pain in one side of your back under your ribs.
· You have diabetes, kidney problems, or a weak immune system.
· You are older than 65.
· You are pregnant.
· You are a man with symptoms of a urinary tract infection.
· Your symptoms do not improve within a few days.
· Your symptoms come back after treatment.
How are urinary tract infections diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask for a sample of your urine which will confirm whether you have a urinary tract infection. You will also be asked about your symptoms.
How are they treated?
Antibiotics prescribed by your doctor or nurse will usually cure a bladder infection. It may help to drink lots of water and other fluids and to urinate often, emptying your bladder each time.
Once antibiotic treatment is started your symptoms should start to improve within five days for adults and two days for children. It is vital that you complete the whole course of antibiotics even if you start to feel better.
Managing your urinary tract infection:
To relieve the pain experienced while your symptoms clear up there are a few steps you can take:
· Ensure you take regular paracetamol
· Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel- place safely on your tummy, back or between your thighs
· Ensure you get adequate rest
· Increase your fluid intake as this will help your body flush out the bacteria.
· It may also help to avoid having sex until you feel better.
Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise Incorporated.