Urinary Tract Infection – The Doctor’s Recommendations for Preventing and Treating Urinary Tract Infections

By Dr. Chantal Lewis, MD

Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are common, non-life-threatening illnesses. While this type of infection is more common in women because of the shorter urethra in the female body, men can also develop UTIs. A urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection of any part of the urinary system. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Generally, nephrons in the kidneys will make urine via the process of filtering, reabsorbing, and secretion of bodily fluid. Urine is made of approximately 95% water and 5% waste products. The most common type of bacteria known to cause a UTI is Escherichia Coli or E Coli. Generally, it takes about three to eight days after E Coli enters the urinary tract before an individual starts to develop symptoms of UTI.

Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection include pain or a burning sensation with urination, having to urinate often, blood in the urine, and having the urge to urinate despite having an empty bladder. More severe urinary tract infections may cause lower back pain, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Individuals may also notice that their urine is cloudy, dark, and has a strong or pungent odor. Diagnosing a urinary tract infection includes taking a urine sample for analysis and looking for red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, nitrates, and leukocyte esterase in the sample. If any of the latter is found in the sample, a urine culture may be performed to determine the exact type of bacteria that is causing the infection. While a urine analysis can be done quickly, a urine culture can take at least forty-eight to seventy-two hours to complete.

Risk factors for developing a UTI include sexual intercourse, especially for women. It is important to note that a urinary tract infection, is not a sexually transmitted disease, but during intercourse, bacteria from other parts of the body for example the anus may be transported to the urethra where it can later cause a bladder infection. Pregnancy, older age, and certain illnesses like diabetes and enlarged prostates can also contribute to UTIs. Having one UTI makes an individual more prone to develop future or recurrent UTIs.

Because UTIs are bacterial infections, they need antibiotics for treatment. Common antibiotics used for treatment include Bactrim, which is a sulfa drug, ciprofloxacin, which is a fluroquinone, and Macrobid also known as nitrofurantoin. Treatment can be for as little as three days to as many as ten days. 

Recommendations for preventing UTIs include increasing water, urinating immediately after intercourse, avoiding douching, and for women, wiping front to back after toileting. Additionally, while there has been no conclusive evidence, pure cranberry juice may help prevent and reduce the duration of symptoms for UTIs.

In summary, UTIs may be common, but prevention is simple, and treatment is typically quick and easy. Seek medical advice as soon as symptoms of a urinary tract appear to avoid developing a complicated infection.

This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to take the place of medical advice from licensed medical professionals. 

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