Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are any type of infection of the urinary tract which can include anything from bladder to kidney infections. UTIs can cause a range of symptoms from burning during urination, increased frequency in urination, a change in urine color or odor, back pain, fever or chills. Although more common in women, children and men can also get UTIs.
UTIs are more common in women because the urethra, the tube that carries urine, is shorter in women than men, allowing bacteria to more easily reach the bladder. Children may not have any symptoms except fever or fussiness. Men with an enlarged prostate are at increased risk because the prostate can block urine flow and lead to infection. Anything that obstructs the flow of urine can lead to UTIs. People with kidney stones, strictures, catheters, weakened immune systems, diabetic and pregnant women are more likely to get UTIs.
In order to diagnose you, your doctor will need a urine sample to check for infection. Other things like yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, prostate and vaginal infections can mimic UTIs; so, it is important see a doctor and to be tested. Your doctor will look under a microscope at your urine for signs of infection like blood or other inflammatory markers. The best way to test for infection is to take a culture of the urine to see if any bacteria grows. E.coli is the most common bacteria causing UTIs. The culture will also show which antibiotics will kill the infection and which ones the bacteria are resistant to. Most UTIs can be treated with a course of antibiotics. It is important to always finish all your antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning and to prevent antibiotic resistance from developing. If you have fever, chills or flank pain, you should contact your doctor. This can be a sign that your infection has spread to the kidneys or bloodstream and may need immediate attention.
You can prevent UTIs in a number of ways. Drinking adequate amounts of water is key to preventing UTIs. You should drink 64 ounces of water per day. Sodas and teas can dehydrate you and put you at increased risk of infection. It is also important not to hold your urine and to go to the bathroom regularly. Sometimes constipation can also contribute to UTIs. Staying in wet bathing suits or sweaty clothes can also lead to UTIs. Luckily, most UTIs are easy to treat and do not lead to any long-term consequences.
Dr. Hamme is a board certified Family Physician who sees patients of all ages at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.