Symptons of Urinary Tract Infections (aka UTI)
The symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection include irritation and burning, a frequent urge to urinate without a full bladder, and pain in the pelvic region and above the pubic bone. Occasionally there may be fever. If the infection involves the kidneys, flank pain, fever and chills are quite common.
The symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection can be very similar at times to those of some sexually transmitted diseases so it is important that these be excluded by your doctor.
Urinary tract infection includes infection of the urethra, bladder and kidneys. They are known as urethritis, cystitis and pyelonephritis respectively. The urethra and bladder are part of the lower urinary tract and are the most common sites of urinary tract infection. Bacteria, especially E.coli, which are normal inhabitants of the intestine are often the cause of the infection.
Urinary tract infections are much more common in women than men. This is because of the short female urethra. The urethra is the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In males the urethra is several inches long, but in the woman the urethra is much shorter. This means that bacteria from the anal and vaginal region can enter the urethra and reach the bladder much more readily. Bacteria can be introduced into the female urethra during sex. Bladder infections in young women used to be known as “honeymoon cystitis” since they commonly occurred in recently sexually active females.
Males and females can also get urinary tract infections which are not related to sex. These can occur if there is a urinary outflow obstruction of some sort such as a stone, enlarged prostate, or congenital or developmental abnormality.
Kidney infections are unusual but can occur if there is reflux of infected urine up into the kidney. This usually does not happen unless there is an abnormality in the attachment of the ureter to the bladder. This can be a cause of upper urinary tract infection in children
Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections
Simple urinary tract infections can be treated with antibiotics taken by mouth. It is important to go to your doctor if you think you might have a urinary tract infection so your urine can be cultured and the appropriate antibiotics prescribed. It is also important that your doctor rule out the possibility of sexually transmitted disease. A special note to males: since urinary tract infections are much less common in young men, pain or irritation on urination is much more likely to be a sexually transmitted disease in a young male.
Since urinary tract infections are so common in young women, you might ask how can I avoid this annoying problem. There are a few practical things a woman can do to reduce the chance of bladder infection:
1. Drink plenty of fluids. Some people say that cranberry juice and other acidic juices may help. Drinking fluids makes you urinate more. The simple act of urinating flushes bacteria out of the urethra and reduces your chance of infection.
2. Urinate soon after sex. The flow of urine through the urethra will help flush out any bacteria that entered the urethra during sex.
3. Avoid very tight clothing. This can rub bacteria into the urethral area and again may predispose you to infection