Have you ever had a Urinary Tract Infection; and don’t know when it will end, how to stop it and if it will happen again?

Well you are not alone! According to the American National Kidney Foundation:

  • 20% of all women will have one Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in their lifetime
  • 30% of women who have had one UTI will have another UTI
  • 80% of women who have had at least two UTIs will develop recurrent (multiple) UTIs 

So what is a UTI, exactly?

A UTI is a bacterial infection within the urinary tract. The infection can affect the urethra (urethritis), the bladder (cystitis) and the kidney (pyelonephritis). Since the urinary tract connects all these parts of the body, a minor bacterial urethra infection or bladder infection may travel up to the kidney and lead to serious consequences.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

  • have frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine
  • burning or pain during urination
  • itching or pain in urethra
  • urine may be cloudy or reddish in color
  • urine may have unusual odor
  • may feel some discomfort in lower abdomen or back
  • chills and fever ( may be present if infection is severe – especially if spread to kidneys        – see the doctor)
  • you may not have all of these symptoms, as they can vary between different people

What if I have these symptoms? Should I see a doctor?

  • A bladder infection may lead to more serious UTI (kidney infection)
  • Many sexually transmitted diseases have UTI-like symptoms (i.e. Chlamydia, etc.). Without treatment, STI can lead to serious long-term problems (such as:  Pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility)
  • As mentioned earlier, many women encounter re-occurrence of a UTI. Your healthcare provider is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your medical problem.

Take home message:  Go see the doctor regardless of the severity; it may be more than you think it is.

What will the doctor do?

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and take a sample of your urine to test for bacteria and white blood cells. White blood cells fight infection, and the presence of white blood cells in urine is a sign of infection.

How are UTIs treated?

UTIs are treated with antibiotics and symptoms should begin to improve within a day of starting antibiotics (Finish all the antibiotic pills – otherwise your infection might come back!)
Kidney infection is more severe than bladder infection. It will require intravenous antibiotics and (depending on symptoms) you may be sent home to rest, or may be hospitalized.

How to prevent recurrent UTI??

  1. Changes in Birth Control – spermicides and diaphragm both increase the probability of getting a UTI
  2. Drink more fluid and urinate after intercourse – there is currently no proof, but many doctors recommend this because drinking more water does not harm the body and urination after intercourse may help flush out germs
  3. Wipe from front to back – This reduces the spread of bacteria from anus to the urethra (most UTI are caused by E-coli – a type of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract)
  4. Avoid douching, bubble baths, vaginal deodorants or perfumed feminine hygiene products – these products may disrupt the good bacteria (the microbiome) within your vagina that protect you from infections
  5. .Practice good hygiene – wash genital area once a day with plain water or mild soap and water. Rinse well and dry the area thoroughly (keeps the area clean and dry).
  6. What about CRANBERRY JUICE or EXTRACT? – Studies that have looked at using cranberry juice, extract, or other cranberry based supplements to prevent UTIs are not conclusive. If you are prone to getting UTIs, doctors may recommend this because even though the evidence is not strong, there is little harm to consuming cranberries. However, once you have a UTI, cranberry juice will not treat or get rid of the UTI.

Use this to find a find a BC family physician! http://find.healthlinkbc.ca/search.aspx?q=walk-in+clinic&rt=sv+rg

Sandy Lee, WHRI CO-OP Student
Emily Wagner, Infectious Diseases Research Manager

For More Information:

Donald, W. Kemper. (2005). BC Health Guide. (3rd ed., Vol.138, p.141). British Columbia, BC: Healthwise. 

T. Ernesto Figueroa. (2012). Urinary Tract Infection. Teens Health from Nemours. Retrieved October 11, 2012 from http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/stds/uti. html#.

(2010). Urinary Tract Infection. National Kidney Foundation, Www.kidney.org Retrieved October 12, 2012 from http://www.kidney.org/atoz/pdf/uti.pdf.

(2011). Patient Information: Urinary Tract Infections in Adults ( The Basics). Up to Date. Retrieved October 11, 2012 from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/urinary-tract-inf ections-in-adults-the-basics?source=see_link#.

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