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Urinary Tract Infections- Just the Facts You Need

As a six-year seasoned LPN and woman, I have tons of experience and training in treating multiple diseases and their impacts.

What is a UTI?

An infection of the urinary tract or UTI can be very painful, or in some cases, you may not even know it is there. When bacteria enter through the urethra- the opening in your body where your urine is expelled- and travel up to grow in the bladder you have a UTI. Normally, the PH of the urinary tract can kill the bacteria before it gets far enough to cause an infection. When the PH of the system is not what it should be, or the bacteria is resistant is when you will begin to develop symptoms.

Symptoms range from burning when urinating to pain in the lower back or flank. You can feel pressure in your lower abdomen, a frequent desire to go, and even pain. You may even begin to develop a slight fever if the infection isn't noticed and taken care of. One of the most noticed symptoms is a change in the smell of the urine, it will begin to smell like ammonia.

There is no reason to feel ashamed, most people will experience the infection at least once in their life, and others will have a chronic case. It doesn't say anything about your hygiene, sometimes it is unavoidable.

How do you get UTIs?

UTIs are simple yet complex in their causes. Women get them more often than men simply because of the shortness of the urethra. Getting a UTI doesn't mean you are unclean, in fact, there are times cleaning too much can cause a UTI because it kills the good bacteria that would prevent the bad bacteria from thriving.

You may have developed a UTI if you are:

  • Taking frequent bubble baths
  • Frequent sex
  • Wearing tight underwear
  • Wiping the wrong way- women need to wipe from front to back to prevent contamination
  • Menopausal women
  • Frequent use of antibiotics
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • Use vaginal products- it alters the bacterial count in the vagina
  • Men who frequently use condoms or spermicides
  • Uncircumcised men
  • Have anal sex (men usually)

Each individual will have different symptoms and infections can come from anything that gets near the entrance to the urethra in both men and women. There are a few ways to prevent getting a UTI, and some you may already be doing.

UTI symptoms

How to prevent UTIs

Like most infections and diseases, prevention is the key to taming the UTI beast. First, you need to start taking a probiotic. Not only will it help the good bacteria in your gut, but the bacteria in your urinary tract. Having a good immune system will help your body kill the bacteria before it begins to colonize and create an infection.

To actively prevent UTIs you need to:

  • Women- wipe from front to back
  • Women- limit the number of vaginal products introduced
  • Men- cleanse the tip of the penis carefully with each urination
  • Urinate after sex- both men and women
  • Use probiotics
  • Limit the intake of antibiotics
  • Limit time soaking in bubble baths- the soap can kill the bacteria
  • Stay hydrated
  • Do not hold your urine in

If you have recently been in the hospital or have a loved one that has had bladder issues you may note that a catheter may actually introduce bacteria into the bladder. This is why frequent cleansing with soap and water is necessary while a catheter is inserted. They should also be changed as frequently as the physician prescribes, not more or less to limit the trauma and introduction of new bacteria.

Taking good care of your body and pelvic health is the main way to prevent UTIs. Perform pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the area around your bladder, stay hydrated, and wear cotton underwear. Cotton breathes better allowing the area to dry more, preventing bacteria growth in the excess moisture.

If none of the above help, consult your physician about the possibility of dietary irritants being the issue. Foods like sugar, caffeine, alcohol and acidic fruits (including tomatoes) can irritate the bladder as they make their way out of the body.

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How is a UTI treated?

Normally a physician will ask for a urine sample. The warm urine will then be tested with a special strip to determine the contents of the urine. Physicians are looking for key factors like the red blood cell count, the white blood cell count, proteins, and ketones. If there is enough detected your physician will prescribe you an antibiotic and send the urine off for a three-day growth test. This test can tell the physician if you are taking the correct antibiotic for the type of bacteria growing.

Some of the most common bacteria noted in urine are:

  • E-Coli
  • Group B Streptococci
  • Klebsiella
  • Enterococcus
  • Sexually transmitted diseases can cause an infection in the urethra

No matter which type of bacteria there is, your physician will change your prescription to match if is not already treating the infection. Women who take strong antibiotics to be rid of the UTI may become susceptible to a secondary issue- the dreaded yeast infection. If you know you are prone to having them, ask your physician for the treatment before it begins. Men may be at risk for yeast infections or "jock itch" as well.

The most common treatments used for UTIs include:

  • Bactrim prescription antibiotic (PA)
  • Macrobid PA
  • Keflex PA
  • Over the counter UTI pain relievers
  • Pyridium for bladder spasms

There are many more treatments that treat specific bacteria and viruses in the urinary tract. Only your physician can advise you what is best for your unique situation.

UTI treatment

What if I don't get treatment for my UTI?

While some infections will need to be confirmed and treated by a physician, those who have UTIs frequently will begin to understand what happened to cause the infection and how to quickly treat and prevent it from happening again.

If a UTI happens to go untreated, it can get worse and travel up the urinary system and into your bloodstream. This can eventually cause a systemic infection known as sepsis. Don't worry, most cases are caught and treated well before sepsis is pending.

Other situations that cause UTIs

Women can tell you carrying a baby plays havoc on the urinary system. Not only are you filtering the blood for two, but when you get far enough down the road, that precious baby loves to sit and kick your bladder. The frequent assault and frequent emptying can introduce bacteria into the system. OB GYNs frequently check women for infections to prevent damage to the child and mom.

Overuse of antibiotics can actually cause a UTI. For instance, if you need to take antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection like pneumonia you can be killing off the good bacteria that prevent UTIs. You need the antibiotic to get well, the best prevention, in this case, is to use a probiotic and stay hydrated.

Remember to take care of yourself and be safe. Get checked out as soon as you recognise symptoms and ask questions if you do not understand!

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Tammy Jeannice

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