According to the NIH, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common infection in the U.S. Half of women have at least one UTI in their lifetimes. Men are susceptible, too, although their longer ureters protect their urinary tract from bacteria and other pathogens.
How do you know if you have a UTI? The experts at Rose Family Practice and Urgent Care in Vancouver and Battle Ground, Washington, recommend you contact them for a UTI evaluation if you experience symptoms such as:
- Strong, persistent urge to urinate
- Frequent urination, small amounts of urine at a time
- Urine that’s pink, red, or brown
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Burning sensation when you urinate
- Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen, lower back, or pelvis
- Urine that smells strange
- Fatigue, fever, or chills
Most UTIs can be resolved with a course of antibiotics. Not treating a UTI can spread the infection and cause serious and even life-threatening health issues.
Some UTIs don’t have symptoms. If you already know that you’re prone to UTIs, staying on top of your health with regular exams at Rose Family Practice will help keep infections in check, protect the health of your other organs, and minimize your risk for chronic UTIs.
If you do have symptoms, get help right way. Consequences of an untreated UTI include:
The bacteria that cause UTIs may enter your body through your urethra (the tube where you pass urine), but they don’t necessarily stop there. The bacteria can travel up into your bladder, causing an infection there known as cystitis, through your ureters, and up into your kidneys.
An infection in your kidneys, known as pyelonephritis, may permanently damage them. Damaged kidneys raise your risk for kidney failure and high blood pressure. Pregnant women with UTIs are particularly at risk for a kidney infection.
When the infection from a UTI isn’t controlled, it can spread into your bloodstream and circulate throughout the rest of your body, affecting all your organs and creating a life-threatening condition called sepsis. If you develop sepsis, you may have symptoms such as fever, chills, dizziness, and confusion. Sepsis interferes with your organs’ normal, healthy function and may even cause them to shut down permanently.
Though it’s more common in men, an untreated UTI in your urethra can cause scarring, leading to a condition called stricture, which is a narrowing of your urethra that makes it more difficult to pass urine. Symptoms include spraying, decreased stream, pain, and not being able to fully empty your bladder.
Complications with pregnancy
A UTI may transmit bacteria to your developing fetus, raising your risk for an infant that has a low birth weight or is born prematurely. If you’re pregnant, your Rose Family Practice doctor checks for UTIs when you come in for your regular prenatal exams.
Preventing a UTI
To keep your urethra, bladder, and kidneys healthy and UTI free, the doctors at Rose Family Practice offer the following tips:
- Hydrate regularly
- Urinate when you feel the urge
- Don’t “hold” it when you feel the need to urinate
- Empty your bladder completely
- Clean genitals before sex and urinate afterward
- Wear cotton underwear
- Wipe from front to back to avoid spreading fecal bacteria to bladder
- Take showers instead of baths
Women should add the following precautions, too:
- Don’t use panty liners or pads every day
- Don’t use hygiene sprays, douches, or scented feminine products
- If you’re prone to UTIs, don’t use diaphragms, spermicides, or unlubricated condoms; ask your Rose Family Practice doctor about other types of birth control
Don’t ignore the symptoms of a UTI. Call us today, or use the online form to schedule an appointment.