Do you suspect you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI)? Whether you’ve had a UTI before and know the signs, asked a friend or searched online for your symptoms, you’re pretty sure that’s what’s going on down there.
What to do? Here’s where to start. Before doing anything, learn about this common—and potentially serious if not treated—condition.
A UTI is simply an infection of the urinary tract. According to the Urology Care Foundation, the UTI is the second-most common bodily infection. Over 8 million U.S. doctor visits per year are directly caused by UTIs. Nearly half of all women and about 3 in 25 men will at some point in their lives experience symptoms of a UTI.
Rest assured, UTIs are very common and easily treated. Here’s what you need to know.
UTI signs and symptoms
A UTI is usually characterized by symptoms like:
- A hot, uncomfortable, burning feeling when you urinate
- Fatigue, shakes, chills or shivers, fever
- Frequent urination
- Feelings of pressure or urgency when you need to go
- Squeezing, tightness or pressure in your lower abdomen
- Milky or cloudy urine
- Pink, red or brownish colored urine
- A distinct, unusual scent to your urine
- Dull, achy pain in the back or sides
Someone with a UTI could have one, all or a combination of any of these signs. The reason for the varied and sometimes confusing symptoms is simple: your urinary tract includes a number of organs, tubes and tissues that can become infected. This means that your ureters, bladder, kidneys or urethra can develop an infection. The bladder infection (called cystitis) is the most common form of UTI.
Typically, the further the bacteria travels, the more of the tract it infects and the more serious the condition.
Your options: How to treat your UTI and feel better soon
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of a UTI, make an appointment with your doctor or take advantage of our convenient virtual care options. Here’s what to expect.
- Urine test: To confirm your suspicion, your doctor may order a urine test.
- Symptoms: Your doctor will also ask you a series of questions. Between your symptoms and the urinalysis, a complete picture is formed and a diagnosis made. Once the UTI is confirmed, you’ll start treatment right away.
- Antibiotics: Uncomplicated UTIs require a basic antibiotic. This usually nixes the infection within a day or two so you can start feeling like yourself again. As always though, you’ll need to take the full course of your antibiotics as prescribed.
- Pain medication: Often, the pain is the first symptom to go. Until it subsides, though, your doctor may also prescribe a medicine to manage the pain.
Some people experience recurring UTI’s. If this is you, your doctor may recommend ongoing treatment. They’ll also recommend ways you can lower your risk.
What causes a UTI?
Knowing what creates urinary tract trouble can help you strategize to prevent infections.
Some life stages enable more bacteria growth. For example, the onset of sexual activity in young women and directly after menopause (when vaginal estrogen levels change). During these phases, simply be aware of the symptoms of a UTI and vigilant to your own body so that if an issue arises, you’re quick to address it.
Since a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, bacteria enters the bladder more readily. Complicating matters even more is the location of a woman’s urinary tract—it’s closer to the anus and vaginal opening, where bacteria tend to live more abundantly. Keep the area clean by washing regularly and wiping correctly after using the restroom (front to back).
Dehydration can also encourage the bacteria to thrive, since you’re not flushing it out as frequently. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and never hold your bladder unless instructed by a doctor.
What to do if you think you have a UTI
A UTI won’t go away on its own, so don’t wait any longer. Take charge now. You can recover quickly with the right treatment.
Think you have a UTI? Talk to your primary care physician or OB/GYN, or start an eVisit now to get a treatment plan within hours.
About the author
Clark Meador, DO, is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth. His professional interests include sports medicine, preventative medicine, general wellness care, pediatric and newborn care, and geriatric medicine. He enjoys playing golf, being outdoors and watching sporting events. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Meador today.