Urinary Tract Infection: Understanding Bladder Infections

Nearly 50 percent of all females get a urinary tract infection at some point during their lifetime. This painful infection often occurs when one or more parts of the urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra) become infected with a pathogen, most frequently, a bacteria.

UTIs most commonly occur in females. Though many UTIs are not serious medical concerns, if the condition is left untreated and the infection reaches the kidneys, serious illness, and even death, can occur.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections:

Bladder infections are the most common type of UTI. Some individuals may experience few or no symptoms. However, the usual symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Low abdominal pain
  • Urine that is cloudy or smells bad or unusual

Some bladder infections that are not treating may get worse with the pathogens moving up the ureters and into the kidneys. Symptoms may include those listed above but often include other symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the lower back (on one or both sides)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Causes for Urinary Tract Infections:

Most UTIs start when bacteria such as E. coli reach the urethra and then travel up the urethra and into the bladder. Urine is typically sterile until it reaches the distal urethra. Women have short urethras compared to men and most clinicians think the shorter urethra is the primary cause for women experiencing more UTIs than men. Other primary causes for UTI include:

  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Taking frequent baths
  • Waiting to urinate
  • Kidney stones
  • Sexual intercourse

Tests Used for Diagnosing Urinary Tract Infections:

Testing for urinary tract infection in women will usually involve several different types of testing to determine the severity you may be experiencing. This may include:

  • Review of medical history
  • Physical Exam
  • Urinalysis test (testing of urine)

Treatment Options for Urinary Tract Infections:

The good news is, urinary tract infections are highly treatable, and many times can be done without any serious intervention. In many cases, UTIs and many mild-to-moderate kidney infections are treated with oral antibiotics. More severe kidney infections are treated in the hospital with IV antibiotics. In addition, we usually recommend that the patient take additional steps to speed up the healing process, including:

  • Increasing fluid intake
  • Taking pain relievers such as Ibuprofen
  • Frequent urination to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract

While urinary tract infections are fairly common, they can be painful and frustrating for you as the patient. We at Western Michigan Urological Associates can help alleviate immediate pain and help you develop a plan to improve your quality of life and alleviate symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Ask Your Primary Care Provider for a Referral.

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