What Is A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
Your urinary tract is the system in your body responsible for filtering wastes in your blood, and excreting wastes out of the body. Your urinary tract consists of your kidneys, ureters and bladder. Once the kidneys and their nephrons filter excess wastes that have circulated through your body, they are then able to turn the excess waste products into urine. The urine flows out of your urethra, and out of your body.
If you have a urinary tract infection, bladder infection or infection of any part of your urinary system, your symptoms can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Bladder infections in normal individuals, who are not undergoing chemotherapy, can be present for a long period of time. Eventually, in many healthy individuals, your body's immune system may take care of a urinary tract infection. However, if you are undergoing chemotherapy, or are elderly, you may be more susceptible to the urinary tract infection spreading throughout the urinary tract to the kidneys (pyelonephritis) or into the bloodstream (urosepsis). What may begin as a mild signs of a urinary tract infection could escalate to an infection which is much more serious.
Preventing Urinary Tract Infections & Bladder Infections
Your body has many defense mechanisms in place to prevent urinary tract infections and bladder infections. These include:
- The design of the urinary system. Your ureters and the drainage system is designed for urine to flow out of the body.
- Your urinary system is a sterile environment. This means that there are no bacteria normally present. This is a defense mechanism to maintain a "clean" environment. Anti-bacterial substances in the lining of the bladder prevent infections.
- Many bacterium are washed out of the body with normal urination
- Your immune system functions to rid the body of bacteria, by killing them
- In men - the prostate gland secretes infection- fighting materials
- In women - the acid level in the vagina of fertile women, is very acidic. Bacteria do not like acidic environment. This helps to kill bacteria.
- Most urinary tract infections do not lead to permanent kidney problems, as long as they are treated with antibiotics.
Causes Of Urinary Tract Infections
You may develop a urinary tract infection as a result of:
- Certain diseases or conditions - such as differences in your changes in the anatomy of your urinary tract. You may have born with these differences, or developed later on in your life secondary to surgery or trauma (injury)
- If you have a lowered immune system due to chemotherapy or Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- You are more at susceptible to the symptoms of urinary tract infections if you have diabetes or are sexually active.
- Women who are pregnant are at a higher risk of urinary infections
- Infections - abnormal bacteria or certain types of fungus (such as yeast) may have entered your urinary tract, and caused an infection. This may happen due to the way you cleanse yourself following a bowel movement. For women especially, if you wipe from the back of your rectal area, to the front of your body, you may contaminate your urinary tract, causing an infection.
- Men with an inflammation of their prostate (prostatitis) may develop urinary infections.
- Poor hygiene - people who do not cleanse themselves regularly may be more at risk for developing urinary tract infections.
Others at risk for urinary tract infections include:
- Women, and those who are elderly are more at risk for infections, due to their anatomy.
- People who catheterize themselves to urinate (by placing a tube in their bladder) are also at risk for infections.
- Your doctor or healthcare provider may need to check your urine for bacteria with a sterile urine sample. This is often done to diagnose your condition, and sometimes after you have been treated with antibiotic therapy.
- You may be experiencing an urgency to go to the bathroom or urinate more frequently.
- You may have pain, or experience a burning sensation, when you urinate. This could be due to an inflammation of your urethra (called urethritis)
- You may not be urinating very often. Your urine may be dark or red blood-tinged.
- Your urine may look cloudy, or have blood in it.
- Your urine may have a strong smell or odor.
- You could have pain in your back, pelvis or abdominal area.
- You may have fever or chills, if you have an infection
- You may be overly tired, or very weak (fatigued), if there is an infection present.
- With severe infections, you could experience nausea or vomiting.
Things You Can Do About Urinary Tract Infections
Prevention Of Urinary Tract Infections:
- Wipe from the front of your body, to the back after a bowel movement. Cleanse with soap and water, if possible.
- Wear white cotton underwear. Shower regularly, and keep good hygiene.
- Do not wear tight fitting pants or pantyhose, if possible.
- If you catheterize yourself, make sure to use a good technique. Cleanse the catheter well with soap and water after each use. If you are at risk for symptoms of kidney problems such as infection due to a lowered immune system, using a sterile catheter each time may help decrease your risk of infection.
- Take showers instead of bathing in the bathtub.
- Avoid creams, lotions, feminine sprays or oils near your genital area.
- Empty your bladder often. Do not wait to go to the bathroom if you feel the urge.
- Keep yourself well hydrated when signs of kidney problems are present. Drink two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
- Cranberry and blueberry juices have been proven to decrease the incidence of urinary tract infections. Chemicals in the cranberries and blue berries may prevent certain bacteria from multiplying in your urinary tract.
- There is no special diet that you should eat to help prevent urinary tract infections. In general, increase the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables and fiber in your diet. Avoid excess fats, sugars and red meat.
- Remind your doctor or healthcare provider if you have a history of diabetes, liver, heart or prior kidney disease.
- If you are ordered an antibiotic, or another medication to treat this disorder:
- Follow all of your healthcare provider's instructions. Take all of your medications as directed
- Do not stop taking your medication unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
- Take the medication exactly as directed.
- Do not share your pills with anyone.
- Antacids, such as Mylanta® , Pepcid® , Nexium® and others, may change the way many medications are absorbed. If you have any questions specific to medications that may have been ordered for you, ask your healthcare provider.
- If you miss a dose of your medication, discuss with your healthcare provider what you should do.
- If you experience symptoms or side effects, especially if severe, be sure to discuss them with your health care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.
- Keep all your appointments for your treatments.
Drugs That May Be Prescribed By Your Doctor To Treat Urinary Tract Infection
Depending on your urinary tract infection symptoms and your overall health status, your doctor may recommend that certain drugs be used to treat your urinary tract infection. In addition to maintaining good hydration status (by drinking lots of fluids), some of the common urinary tract infection treatment drugs may include:
Antibiotics - If your doctor or healthcare provider suspects that you have a urinary tract infection, he or she may order antibiotics. You will likely receive your antibiotics in a pill form, if you have a simple infection, or intravenous (IV) if you have a more serious blood infection. Antibiotics such as Bactrim® and Cipro® , are commonly used because of their ability to get rid of certain bacteria that are common to urinary tract infections. If you are prescribed antibiotics, take the full prescription. Do not stop taking pills once you feel better.
Antispasmodic Agents - If you are experiencing spasms (or contractions) in your bladder, your healthcare provider may temporarily prescribe an antispasmodic agent. Your healthcare provider will determine if this is right for you based on your symptoms of kidney problems.
Phenazopyridine - This medication may be given, in a pill form, to treat symptoms of pain and discomfort that are associated with a urinary tract infection. Do not take this medication for more than 2 days, and discontinue it when your symptoms improve after treatment. Your urine will turn orange while you are taking this medication, and this may cause your clothing to become stained. If you notice any kidney problems symptoms of shortness of breath, or confusion, contact your physician or healthcare provider immediately.
Tylenol® - Tylenol alone may provide relief from fever, due to a bladder infection. It is important not to exceed the recommended daily dose of Tylenol, as it may cause liver damage. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) up to 4000 mg per day (two extra-strength tablets every 6 hours) may help.
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAID)Drugs - NSAID drugs uch as ibuprofen and naproxen should be avoided if you have kidney disorders, because it may cause potential damage to your kidneys.
- Discuss these and all over-the-counter medications with your healthcare provider before you take them.
- Your healthcare provider will discuss with you which treatments are helpful to you.
- Do not stop any medications abruptly, without first discussing them with your healthcare provider.
When To Call Your Doctor Or Health Care Provider About Urinary Tract Infections
- Fever of 100.5º F (38º C), and/or chills (possible signs of infection if you are receiving chemotherapy).
- If you begin urinating less frequently, or if your urine is dark, cloudy, or painful.
- Urinary symptoms such as: frequency, urgency, burning, pain on urination, blood in the urine.
- Any new rashes on your skin, itchy skin
- Changes in your mental state, including confusion
- If your urinary tract infection symptoms worsen or do not improve in 3 days of therapy