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UTI Signs, Symptoms, Remedies and Treatments

Blog UTI

UTI Signs, Symptoms, Remedies and Treatments

May 24, 2018 Read Time - 13 minutes

About Author

Mark grew up in a family of healthcare providers and has always been fascinated by preventative medicine, infectious diseases and the intersection of big data and healthcare.

UTI signs and symptoms can be quite variable. They often include burning urination, fever and stomach pains. UTIs are generally painful and require fast treatment, usually in the form of antibiotics.

Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are one of the most common types of infections people deal with during their lifetime, second only to respiratory infections.

In the United States alone, UTIs are responsible for 10 million doctor and hospital visits every year.

Women are eight times more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections than men, and many of those women will suffer from chronic, recurring UTIs.

About 40% of women and 12% of men will suffer from a UTI in their lifetime.

What is a UTI and What are the Symptoms?

UTI is short for urinary tract infection, and it’s an infection that occurs anywhere in your urinary tract.

The urinary tract involves:

  • Your kidneys, which remove waste and excess water from the blood and eliminate them as urine
  • The ureters, which take urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • The bladder, which stores urine
  • The urethra, which takes the urine from the bladder to the outside of your body

UTI-signs-and-symptoms

UTIs are typically caused by a bacteria, and Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is responsible for 90% of all simple UTIs. E. coli normally lives in the bowel and around the anus.

UTIs may also be caused by fungi and, rarely, viruses.

Urinary tract infections most commonly occur in the urethra or bladder, in the lower urinary tract. While less common, upper urinary tract infections affecting the kidneys or ureters also tend to be more severe.

Types and Symptoms of UTIs

A UTI can happen anywhere in your urinary tract, and symptoms can vary depending on where in the urinary tract the infection occurs.

UTIs are typically divided into lower urinary tract infections and upper urinary tract infections.

Lower urinary tract infections involve the urethra or bladder. An infection of the urethra is called urethritis, and a bladder infection is called cystitis.

Upper urinary tract infections involve the kidneys or ureters, are referred to as pyelonephritis, and tend to be much more severe than lower urinary tract infections.

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Signs and symptoms of a UTI

The symptoms of a UTI will vary depending on where in your urinary tract the infection occurs.

UTI-treatment

Symptoms of lower urinary tract infection include:

  • Burning when urinating
  • Discharge
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower abdomen discomfort
  • Pelvic pain in women
  • Rectal pain in men

Symptoms of an infection in the kidneys include:

  • Upper back and side pain
  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking and chills

Kidney infections are very serious and can become deadly if the infection moves from your kidneys to your bloodstream. If you are having symptoms of an upper urinary tract infection, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Other symptoms that you have an infection somewhere in your urinary tract include:

  • Urine that is pink, red, or brownish (indicating blood in the urine)
  • Urine that is dark, cloudy, or foul-smelling
  • Frequent, intense urge to urinate, even though little comes out
  • Feeling tired or shaky

UTI Symptoms in men

For the most part, men experience the same symptoms as women. However, men may also experience rectal pain.

Symptoms in special populations

Infants, children, and the elderly may experience different symptoms of UTIs or may lack the ability to tell you if they are experiencing the classic symptoms.

Here are some signs that somebody may be suffering from a urinary tract infection:

  • Newborns may suffer from either a fever or low body temperature, poor feeding, or jaundice.
  • Infants may experience vomiting, diarrhea, fever, not eating, or a failure to thrive.
  • Children may become irritable, eat poorly, suffer from an unexplained fever that won’t go away, lose control of their bowels or have loose stool, or have a change in their urination pattern.
  • Older adults may suffer from either a fever or low body temperature, poor appetite, lethargy, or a change in their mental status.

If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, get them medical care and express your concern that they may be suffering from a UTI.

Causes of UTIs

UTIs are typically caused by bacteria getting from the anus to the urethra. UTIs are significantly more common in women because the distance between their anus and urethra is shorter.

Women also have a shorter urethra than men, making it easier for bacteria to travel up into the bladder, or even farther up the urinary tract.

The most common ways that bacteria travel from the anus to the urethra include improper wiping, toilet backsplash, and sexual intercourse, especially unprotected anal sex.

Risk factors for UTIs

These types of people are at greater risk of developing UTIs than others:

  • Those with conditions that block the urinary tract, such as kidney stones, an enlarged prostate, or certain types of cancer.
  • Those with abnormally developed urinary structures.
  • People who are unable to fully empty their bladder, such as those who are paralyzed or suffer from other spinal cord injuries.
  • People with reduced mobility, especially after surgery or during bed rest.
  • Postmenopausal women, since a decrease in estrogen is connected to an increase in UTIs.
  • Those with suppressed immune systems such as people with HIV/AIDS and those taking chemotherapy for cancer.
  • Sexually active women. Intercourse tends to introduce bacteria into the urethra. Urinating soon after sex may decrease the odds of bacteria taking hold and growing in your urinary tract.
  • Women who use a diaphragm for birth control.
  • Men with an enlarged prostate that prohibits the bladder from emptying completely.
  • Infants, since diapers can introduce fecal bacteria into the urethra.
  • Young children with poor bathroom hygiene. They may not wipe well or may not wash their hands well after using the bathroom.
  • Older children who suffer from UTIs tend to have an abnormality in the urinary tract. Any child with symptoms of a UTI should be taken to the doctor right away.
  • Hospital patients, nursing home residents, and others who use catheters. Catheters are often guilty of introducing or harboring bacteria in the urinary tract.
  • Older adults are more susceptible to UTIs than younger adults.
  • Anybody who has had a previous UTI is at higher risk of developing another one than somebody who has never experienced a UTI.
  • People with poorly-controlled diabetes.
  • Pregnant women.

Additional risk factors for men:

For the most part, men have the same risk factors as women. However, men with enlarged prostates are at higher risk of developing UTIs.

Additional risk factors for women:

Women are significantly more likely to develop urinary tract infections than men because they have a lot more risk factors. Here are a few things that make women more prone to UTIs than men:

  • Shorter urethra. Since women have a shorter urethra that is close to both the anus and vagina, it is much easier for bacteria to reach and travel up the urethra into the bladder.
  • Sexual intercourse. Having sex puts pressure on the urethra that can move bacteria from around their anus into their urethra. Urinating shortly after having sex can help to dislodge any bacteria before they have a chance to take hold of the bladder.
  • Spermicides can increase irritation in some women, which increases the likelihood of bacteria entering the urethra during sexual intercourse.
  • Non-lubricated condoms can cause irritation, which can lead to a bladder infection. Since condom use is very important, be sure to use plenty of lubrication.
  • Menopause. A decrease in estrogen can change the bacteria in your vagina, which may lead to an increased risk of a UTI.

Diagnosing a UTI

When you go to the doctor, you will be asked to provide a clean catch urine sample which will be tested for the presence of large amounts of white blood cells, which indicate infection.

If your doctor suspects that you are suffering from an upper urinary tract infection, they may also want to do a complete blood count (CBC) and blood cultures to make sure that the infection hasn’t reached your bloodstream.

If you are prone to recurring UTIs, your doctor may want to do additional testing to try to discover the cause. Such UTI testing may include:

  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show the structures of your urinary tract organs.
  • An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) involves injecting a dye into your body which helps to highlight your urinary tract on an x-ray.
  • A cystoscopy uses a small camera on the end of a skinny tube to see inside your bladder. Your doctor may also use this opportunity to take a biopsy of your bladder to test for bladder inflammation or cancer.
  • A computerized tomography (CT) scan provides the clearest, most-detailed image of your urinary tract.

For mild UTIs, a call to an online doctor will totally suffice.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment PlushCare-App-Steps

Treatments for a UTI

The typical treatment for a UTI is antibiotics. Lower urinary tract infections are typically mild enough to be treated with oral antibiotics. Upper urinary tract infections are generally considered severe enough to require IV antibiotics.

There are several different antibiotics that are typically prescribed for urinary tract infections. Since it takes a few days to test your urine to see which bacteria is causing the infection, broad-spectrum antibiotics are usually given, which will eradicate most different types of bacterial infections.

Examples of which antibiotic may be prescribed by your doctor include amoxicillin, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim), ciprofloxacin, and nitrofurantoin (Macrobid).

UTIs that are caused by fungi will be treated with antifungals. UTIs caused by a virus are treated with an antiviral, usually cidofovir.

Home Remedies for a UTI

While most UTIs will require antibiotics from your doctor, there are some things you can do at home to help relieve the symptoms of minor urinary tract infections.

  • A heating pad or hot-water bottle can reduce abdominal pain.
  • Drink plenty of water to help flush the bacteria from your urinary tract.
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods, which can irritate your bladder.
  • Drinking one glass a day of cranberry juice may help prevent bacteria from sticking to your bladder or kidneys. Make sure it is natural and unsweetened. Don’t drink cranberry juice if you take blood thinners. More than one glass a day of cranberry juice can cause other problems, such as kidney stones, so don’t go overboard with the juice.
  • Add some apple cider vinegar to your diet. It contains acetic acid that is effective in reducing the growth of infection-causing bacteria. Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with eight ounces of water and consume this mixture up to three times a day. You can add a teaspoon of honey to the mixture for taste.
  • Parsley juice leads to increased urine amounts when compared to water, allowing for more bacteria flushed. It’s also known to help flush out toxins and microorganisms in the kidneys. Boil parsley for about five minutes, strain it, then cool it for a tasty way to ease your UTI symptoms.

Learn more about home remedies for UTIs here.

Complications of a UTI

Simple UTIs, if treated properly, rarely have lasting complications, although recurring or chronic UTIs may occur in some women.

Untreated or chronic UTIs can lead to several severe complications such as:
Permanent kidney damage

  • Increased risk in pregnant women of high blood pressure, kidney infections, and delivering a premature or low-birth-weight infant
  • Narrowing of the urethra in men
  • Sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream which can be fatal

If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s essential you seek treatment quickly.

Chronic UTIs

About one in five women suffer from more than one UTI in their lifetime, and many of those women are prone to chronic UTIs, usually defined as three or more urinary tract infections per year.

There are several different treatment options for those who suffer from chronic UTIs.

Some of them include:

  • Taking a low dose of an antibiotic every day to help prevent bacteria from growing in your urinary tract
  • Taking a single dose of an antibiotic after sex if it seems to be a common trigger
  • Taking antibiotics for one or two days each time symptoms appear
  • Using an at-home urine test kit to test for an infection at the first sign of symptoms

The connection between UTIs and sex

Unfortunately, sexually active women are at a greater risk of contracting UTIs than just about any other risk factor. In fact, the term “honeymoon cystitis” was coined specifically due to the high incidence of women coming back from their honeymoons with bladder infections due to an increased amount of sexual activity.

Urinating and washing your genitals after sex can reduce the odds of you developing a UTI after sexual intercourse. Using protection also reduces the chances of developing a UTI as a secondary symptom of a sexually transmitted disease.

While it is possible to have sex with a UTI if you are only experiencing mild symptoms, it isn’t recommended. Sexual activity can irritate the urethra and introduce even more bacteria to your urinary tract. If you are having moderate to severe symptoms, sexual activities can exacerbate those symptoms.

Urinary tract infections are not contagious, so you don’t necessarily need to worry about infecting your partner if you do feel up for sexual activity.

How to Prevent UTIs

Luckily, there are many things you can do to prevent future urinary tract infections.

Here are a few things that may help:

  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting pants. Tight pants and underwear made from other fibers prevent your vagina from breathing properly and provide the perfect opportunity for bacteria to take hold and multiply.
  • Wipe from front to back to prevent contaminating your urethra with fecal matter.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. One glass a day of cranberry juice may help, although more than one glass a day can cause complications.
  • Urinate frequently and make sure you are completely emptying your bladder each time.
  • Urinate and clean your genitals after sex.
  • Avoid feminine products such as douches, sprays, and powders, since they can irritate your urethra.
  • Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, and spermicide can all contribute to UTIs.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Postmenopausal women should talk to their doctor about the use of topical estrogen to reduce the incidence of UTIs.
  • Take vaginal probiotics such as lactobacillus to encourage healthy bacterial growth. Some studies show that probiotic vaginal suppositories can reduce the incidence of UTIs.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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