Urinary tract infections, more commonly known as UTIs, are very common, accounting for between 8 and 10 million doctor visits per year. Most women, about one in five, will have at least one UTI in their lifetime, but it can also occur in men and children.
Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment
Your urinary tract includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra, although most infections occur in the urethra and bladder. An infection can occur when bacteria find their way inside the urinary tract.
Symptoms of a UTI may include:
- Pain or pressure in your side, abdomen or pelvis
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Urinary incontinence (leakage)
- Abnormal urine color or smell
- Pain during sex
- Fever and chills
If you suspect you may have a urinary tract infection, call your health care provider. They will test your urine to diagnose the presence and type of UTI you have. These infections are typically easy to treat with antibiotics, but will worsen without treatment and can become very serious.
Risk Factors for UTIs
Women are at higher risk for developing UTIs due to their anatomy, with urethras that are shorter and closer in proximity to the anus, where E. coli bacteria are common. Some women find that using a diaphragm for birth control leads to more frequent infections. If this is the case, talk to your provider about other birth control options.
Older adults are also at increased risk, especially for cystitis, which is a bladder infection, if they aren’t able to completely empty their bladder when urinating.
Other risk factors include:
- Enlarged prostate
- Bladder prolapse
While some people are more prone to developing urinary tract infections, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract. These include:
- Always wiping from front to back after a bowel movement
- Regularly changing pads and tampons during menstruation
- Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, to regularly flush your system
- Urinating immediately before and after sex
- Not douching or using feminine deodorants, both of which can upset the body’s natural pH levels
- Avoiding tight-fitting clothing, which can trap moisture
- Wearing cotton underwear, as they are more breathable
If you are diagnosed with a UTI, it is very important to complete the prescribed round of antibiotics. Not doing so can cause the infection to recur or worsen and make future treatment less effective. If you have side effects, reactions or other concerns about the medication you are taking, talk to your health care provider or give us a call for advice about alternatives.