Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Affecting Over 50% of Women At Some Point In Their Life

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) impact the urinary system, with bacteria, commonly Escherichia coli, causing infections in the bladder and urethra. Factors like poor hygiene, tight clothing, sexual activity, and dehydration increase UTI risks. Symptoms include frequent urination, pain, cloudy urine, and fever. Diagnosis involves a urine test, and antibiotics are the typical treatment.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects any part of the urinary system. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. UTIs are most common in the bladder and urethra.

UTIs are primarily caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. The most common type of bacteria is Escherichia coli (E. coli). E. coli is a bacteria that normally lives in the intestines, but can sometimes enter the urinary tract and cause an infection. Women are at higher risk of getting a UTI because their urethra is located closer to the rectum where E. coli is commonly found. 

Common factors that increase the risk of UTIs are:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Tight clothes
  • Sexual Activity
  • Dehydration
  • Peeing habits
  • Birth control
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of a UTI can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the part of the urinary tract that is infected. The most common symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Urgency to urinate
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea or vomitting

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to visit your doctor. Doctors can usually diagnose a UTI based on the patient's symptoms and a urine test, which can detect the presence of bacteria in the urine.

In some cases, the doctor may also order other tests, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan of the urinary tract. These tests can help to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as kidney stones or bladder cancer.

What are the treatment options for UTIs?

The treatment for a UTI usually involves antibiotics. The type of antibiotic that is prescribed will depend on the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.

Antibiotics are usually taken for 3-7 days. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics, even if the symptoms start to improve, to prevent the infection from coming back.

If you are someone that frequently gets UTIs, doctors may suggest other treatment options to avoid the infection becoming antibiotic resistant. If your symptoms are minor, they may suggest the  “watch and wait” method. During this time, you should drink plenty of fluids to try and flush out the urinary system. If symptoms are more severe, you may need to Intravenous (IV) treatment. Doctors may also recommend a treatment plan in which you take an antibiotic each time after sexual intercourse if you experience chronic UTIs.

Doctors near you that can help:

  • Dr. Brittany Stofko, DO - 295A Midland Pkwy Ste 220, Summerville, SC 29485
  • Dr. Andrew Futterman, DO - 342 Brighton Park Blvd Ste A, Summerville, SC 29486
  • Dr. Megan K. Pallay, MD - 8950 University Blvd #150, North Charleston, SC 29406
  • Roper St. Francis Physician Partners - OB/GYN - 730 Stoney Landing Rd #200, Moncks Corner, SC 29461

Is there anything that I can do to prevent getting a UTI?

There are a few things that can be done to help prevent UTIs:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will help to flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Empty your bladder regularly. Holding urine for long periods of time can increase the risk of bacteria growing in the bladder.
  • Urinate before and after intercourse. This helps flush the urinary tract and any bacteria they may have been introduced.
  • Wash your hands before and after intercourse. Your hands easily pick up bacteria from touching surfaces which can then be introduced to the urethra during sexual acts.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. This will help to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra.
  • Avoid using bubble baths and scented soaps. These products can irritate the urinary tract and make it more susceptible to infection.
  • Try out a different method of birth control. Use condoms that are not treated with spermicide to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Loose-fitting clothing or cotton underwear prevent a moist environment near the urethra which in turn helps prevent bacteria growth.
  • Take cranberry extract supplements. Although studies are not final, these supplements may decrease the risk of getting a UTI.
  • Take Methenamine Hippurate tablets. This is an alternative to taking antibiotics and helps prevent UTIs that are caused by bacteria. 

UTIs are a common and easily treatable infection. However, it is important to see a doctor if you think you have a UTI, so that the infection can be diagnosed and treated promptly. If a UTI is not treated, it can spread to the kidneys, which can cause a kidney infection. Kidney infections are more serious and can lead to complications such as sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition.