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Dr. Mark Hosko, MD, September 23 2021

How Do You Get A Urinary Tract Infection?

UTIs: Common Causes & Proper Treatment

Urinary tract infections can cause significant discomfort. It is due to bacteria that access the bladder, and these require antibiotic treatment.  A visit to your doctor or urgent care is necessary to get a prescription and to ensure your discomfort is actually a UTI and not from another problem that can be more serious. Avoid complications by not treating at home.  The following is additional information you need to know about urinary tract infections. 

What causes a urinary tract infection?

Urinary tract infections (UTI) occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract system through the urethra (the tube that leads from the bladder to the outside), work their way up into the bladder, and multiply there. Normally the urinary system works to keep invaders out, but sometimes the natural defense system fails. When this happens, the bacteria can overgrow and cause an infection.   

The urinary tract consists of multiple organs.  The urethra connects the bladder to the outside and is the tube you urinate from.  An infection here is called urethritis. Because the urethra sits so close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections (STI) are a common cause of urethritis. An infection in the bladder is called cystitis, and it’s usually caused by E. Coli  or other bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract. By convention, an infection in the bladder is generally referred to as a urinary tract infection, or UTI, but it really refers specifically to a bladder infection (cystitis).  An infection in the kidneys is called pyelonephritis. 

A UTI is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI or STD) because it comes from the person’s own bacteria.  The milking action that happens during sexual contact can work bacteria up into the bladder, causing a UTI.  That is why some women develop a UTI a few days after having sex.   Some sexually transmitted infections (STI) cause urethritis and can have symptoms that are similar to UTIs.  Your doctor or health care provider will do the appropriate tests to make an accurate diagnosis before treatment is started.

Urinary tract infections can happen to men but most often happen to women because the urethra of women, the tube that connects the bladder to the outside world, is shorter and therefore easier for bacteria to work their way up into the bladder.

However, other problems can cause issues in the urinary tract, including conditions that affect the bladder like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. Men can get UTIs when something blocks the passage of urine or if they are uncircumcised. 

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

UTIs usually present with typical symptoms that make it relatively simple to diagnose. Those symptoms include a strong or intense urge to urinate, feeling the need to urinate very frequently, and a burning sensation when urinating . Furthermore, you may only urinate small amounts at a time. 

The urine may appear cloudy, red, pink, or cola-colored, indicating the presence of blood in the urine, and it may have a stronger than normal smell. Finally, urinary tract infections often include pelvic pain (for women) near the pubic bone, which can worsen when urinating. 

Symptoms of a UTI can change depending on the severity and progression of the infection. The bacteria in the bladder can work their way up into the kidneys. Symptoms of a kidney infection include back or side (flank) pain, fevers, shaking chills, nausea, and vomiting. Bladder infections often include pelvic pressure, discomfort in the lower abdomen, frequent and painful urination, and blood in the urine. Urethritis symptoms include discharge and burning with urination. 

What does UTI pain feel like?

A urinary tract infection causes a burning sensation when you pee (urinate), and a constant urge to pee. You may feel the need to pee even after just going to the bathroom. Many people feel extra tired and weak as their body works to fight the infection and focuses all energy there. 

How do you know if you have a urinary tract infection?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, then you may have a urinary tract infection. To know for sure, you will need to go to the doctor and have your urine tested, ensuring proper urinary tract infection treatment

Can a UTI go away on its own?

UTIs need to be treated by a professional health provider.  The symptoms sometimes improve or resolve, but the infection remains and can expand into the kidneys or other organs, which is much more serious.  Urinary tract infections require medication to clear up the infection. To relieve symptoms until you get medication,  you can try a variety of natural remedies such as good hydration, cranberry juice and probiotics. Urinate often and make sure to wear clean, dry, loose clothing. Some UTIs may eventually go away without antibiotics, but leaving an infection can leave your body in unnecessary pain and risk your health.

Will ibuprofen help a UTI?

Ibuprofen may help with the pain and discomfort of a UTI but will not get rid of the disruptive bacteria on its own. Antibiotics are still needed! 

Can you flush out a UTI with water?

Drinking water can help to flush out or dilute the harmful bacteria in the bladder. However, you will need to drink a minimum of six glasses of water a day. You will still need antibiotics. It’s best to speak to your doctor about how much water or fluid to drink. 

 What food and drink can make a UTI worse?

When dealing with a UTI, dietary changes can help to a mild extent to reduce symptoms.  For the time being, reducing coffee and other caffeinated drinks along with alcoholic beverages is best because they can cause dehydration. Soda should stay on the shelf, too, along with sugary snacks, as they can worsen symptoms.  Some spicy peppers can irritate the bladder. 

Instead of the foods and drinks above, focus on drink water, herbal tea, and 100 percent cranberry juice. Avoid cocktail mixes of cranberry juice as it will not help. Chicory and Jerusalem artichoke have prebiotics that can help to feed the good bacteria in your gut and potentially help fight harmful bacteria.  

Can stress cause a UTI?

Stress can indirectly cause a UTI by increasing cortisol levels that can weaken the immune system and increase your chances of a UTI. While stress alone cannot cause a UTI, reducing stress can have many positive impacts on your body. Also, stress can lead to hygiene neglect that can lead to an infection. 

Can you get a UTI from not drinking enough water?

Inadequate hydration can compound a UTI and even increase the risk of bladder infections. However, dehydration does not directly cause a UTI but is linked to a higher frequency of infection. If you have frequent UTIs, then you can reduce the frequency of infections with adequate hydration. 

How long does a UTI last?

With antibiotics, the symptoms may last for one to three days before relief sets in. For men, the symptoms may last a little longer, and they will need to take antibiotics longer too. 

Is a urinary tract infection an STD?

A UTI is not a sexually transmitted disease.  It comes from the person’s own bacteria. However,  the milking action that happens during sexual contact can work bacteria up into the bladder, causing a UTI.  That is why some women (women because they have a shorter urethra than men) often suffer from UTIs a few days after having sex.   IMPORTANT POINT:  some STDs have symptoms that are similar to UTIs.  Your doctor or health care provider will do the appropriate tests to make an accurate diagnosis before treatment is started.

How do I know if my UTI is getting worse?

Symptoms you should look for that the infection is becoming more serious include pain in the upper back and sides, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. If these symptoms appear, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading. 

Should I go to the hospital for a UTI?

While a UTI warrants a trip to your doctor or urgent care, you do not need to go to the hospital unless you are exhibiting severe symptoms like fevers or back pain. However, if you have other issues such as a weakened immune system, diabetes, or other problems, you may need to go to a hospital for a UTI. If you are pregnant and cannot see your doctor right away, then you may want to go to a hospital too. 

Why choose Portland Urgent Care for UTI?

Portland Urgent Care uses a variety of integrated medical resources by combining both western and eastern medical healthcare, allowing us to optimally treat you the way your body needs. We offer walk-in care and same-day appointments.

We offer women’s health screenings, exams, and treatment for common problems. With an in-clinic lab, we can test quickly and help you feel better faster. You do not need to suffer and treat yourself at home when we can help you quickly and get you back to your life. 

Conclusion

Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria and can lead to very uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms. However, a diagnosis and prescription for antibiotics can get you feeling better quickly and back to normal life. Visit Portland Urgent Care if you think you might have a UTI, and let us help you.

Written by

Dr. Mark Hosko, MD

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