Urinary tract infections are more than a minor annoyance. Every year, they send over 10 million Americans to the doctor, according to stats from the National Kidney Foundation.
If you haven’t had one by now, don’t count yourself lucky just yet. The chances are about 1 in 5 that any given woman will contract a UTI at some point in her life.
Some women are more prone to UTIs than others. Of the portion women who are diagnosed, 20% of those will have a recurrence. Of those who have two UTIs, 30% will have a third. And if you’ve had three UTIs? Sister, you’re in for a wild ride – there’s an 80% chance you’ll experience a fourth. These “frequent flyers” may have additional health problems, such as diabetes or kidney stones, that need to be addressed with their physician.
What are the causes of urinary tract infections?
Most infections are caused by bacteria from the bowel – E. coli – somehow making its way into the bladder. Usually, these bacteria are flushed out of the urinary tract every time you pee. This is one reason why you should never “hold it” for too long, or forget to pee before and after sex.
But in some cases, the body just can’t fight the bacteria off. If you have diabetes or you’re a regular smoker, your immune system may be weakened, increasing your risk of UTI and other infections.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
Ignoring the signs of a UTI can cause bigger problems. The bacteria may travel up your system and end up in the kidneys, causing a much more severe infection known as pyelonephritis (pie-low-nef-RITE-us). Knowing what to look out for can help you get to the doctor sooner and avoid this nasty complication
1. Urgent need to urinate
You have to go, RIGHT NOW. Even if you just went! Frequent urinating and the constant urge to pee is one of the tell-tale signs of a UTI.
2. Stinging pain or burning sensation when you pee.
If you only feel a little stinging once, that could be a sign that your body is actively fighting unwanted bacteria. Don’t be concerned until the second or third time. You’ll know you’re in trouble when you get that same burning sensation every time you pee. Drink plenty of water to help flush it out.
3. Trickling pee.
You may feel like you’re about to unleash the full power of Niagara Falls, but when you sit down to pee, the little dribbles barely eek out.
4. Urinating brings no relief.
You peed all you could. But when you pull up your pants, your bladder still feels like the Hoover Dam, and you’re back in the bathroom again minutes later.
5. Strong-smelling urine.
You don’t have to be a detective to tell that your urine smells funky. UTIs are known for causing strong, pungent-smelling urine. If your pee has a strange odor, and you don’t remember asparagus on the menu, call the doctor.
6. Cloudy, discolored, or bloody urine.
Red or brown urine can be alarming, and could be a sign of an infection. It could also be a sign that you’ve eaten rhubarb, blackberries, or beets recently. If you haven’t, and if you’re experiencing any other painful symptoms, make an appointment with your OB-GYN.
7. Abdominal cramping.
Most women are accustomed to a little cramping now and then, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss abdominal pain. Aching muscles are a common sign of infection, and since UTIs affect the bladder, you should be extra cautious of pain and pressure in the pelvis.
Severe UTIs will trigger an immune response, sending signals to your body to call in the cavalry. Inflammation will develop in the infected area, and your bone marrow will release a host of white blood cells. Your body is working hard, even if it’s all the energy you can muster to just sit on the couch and watch the new season of Queer Eye.
You might get to this stage if you’ve ignored all of your UTI symptoms. If you have a fever, or are experiencing chills or nausea, you need to call your doctor immediately. The infection may have spread to your kidneys, and this is a serious medical emergency.
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of, or suffering from Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), or have questions about it, please see your doctor.
We also invite you to establish care with Dr. Aliabadi. Please click here to make an appointment or call us at (844) 863- 6700.
Supported by her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi treats women through all phases of life and cherishes the special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor.