Urinary tract infections (UTI) are very common, affecting one in five women at some point in their lifetime. Owing to their anatomy, women are more likely to develop a UTI than men. Under normal circumstances urine moves through the urinary system free of bacteria. In some cases bacteria enter the urinary tract, grow, and cause infection. 

OB/GYN Kiran Patel, MD, and family medicine physician Leela Patel, MD, take pride in providing the highest level of care. If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, our team here at Patel and Patel will help you get a prompt diagnosis and the care you need. 

What is the urinary tract?

Your urinary tract consists of the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder called ureters. A UTI can affect any part of your urinary tract. However, infections that spread to the kidneys can be more serious. If you have a urinary tract infection you may experience:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain when urinating
  • Lower back pain
  • Cloudy urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Pressure in abdomen

These symptoms can range from mild to severe. Most urinary tract infections clear up on their own. If symptoms persist, it’s wise to schedule a visit with a health care provider. 

Risk factors for UTI

Anyone can develop a urinary tract infection. In women, the urethra is shorter and situated closer to the anus where Escherichia coli bacteria live. This increases the chances for women to get a UTI compared with men.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age: UTI risk increases with age
  • Sexual intercourse: Can trigger a UTI in some women 
  • Certain medical conditions: Diabetes and certain other medical conditions boost the risk of UTI
  • Certain medications: Drugs that suppress the immune system raise UTI risk
  • Menopause: Low estrogen increases the risk of UTI
  • Abnormalities of the urinary tract: Issues like kidney stones contribute to UTI risk

In men, an enlarged prostate is a risk factor for UTI. Additionally, incomplete bladder emptying is a common cause of UTI. Older adults are more likely to develop bladder inflammation (cystitis) that may last days to weeks. 

Some people are prone to getting UTIs. In this case, doctors typically take a cautious approach to treating frequent UTIs with antibiotics. Excessive use of antibiotics is a major risk factor for opportunistic bacteria to cause infections such as Clostridium difficile. This type of infection is more serious and can be challenging to treat.

UTI versus bladder infection

A UTI is a general infection that can impact any part of your urinary tract. However, when bacteria makes its way to specific areas such as the bladder, it can cause inflammation and additional symptoms. General UTIs are typically uncomplicated and most often resolve on their own. Specific infections, such as a kidney infection are more complicated and usually require treatment.  

Tips for preventing UTIs

Sometimes a UTI cannot be prevented, but there are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower the chances of getting a UTI. 

Adequate water intake may be key in preventing UTIs in some women. Increasing water intake in women who are prone to UTIs cuts UTI risk in half, according to research results presented by the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Water helps to flush bacteria from the urinary tract. When you fail to drink enough water throughout the day, bacteria become more concentrated in the urinary tract, boosting UTI risk. 

Adding yogurt with live probiotics helps to combat UTIs. The good bacteria crowds out harmful bacteria that cause UTIs. Additionally, cranberry and blueberry juice contain certain chemicals that help to prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder. 

Most UTIs are uncomplicated and can be managed at home with some general self care. Still, if you find yourself having recurrent UTIs, it’s wise to speak with a health care provider. To learn more and to schedule a visit with one of our providers, call our South Charleston office or request an appointment online. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is standing by to assist you. 

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