What is a UTI?
Identifying the Signs of a Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that can happen in any part of the urinary system. It could be an infection in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. People with vulvas are a lot more likely to experience one of these infections than someone with a penis, although it has been known to happen. These types of infections can usually be treated by antibiotics but there are also several ways to reduce the risks of getting them as well.
What Does a UTI Feel Like?
Depending on what part of the urinary tract the infection is in, the symptoms of a UTI can range. Common symptoms include
A burning sensation when you pee
A strong, persistent urge to urinate
Only passing a small amount of pee
Urine appears cloudy, red, bright pink, or cola-colored
Urine smells very strongly
If the infection is in the kidney area, also known as acute pyelonephritis, other symptoms could include upper back and side pain, a high fever, nausea, vomiting, and shaking and chills.
If the infection is in the bladder, also referred to as cystitis, a person may experience lower abdomen discomfort, pelvic pressure, extra painful urination, or blood in their urine.
Finally, if the infection is centered in the urethra, also called urethritis, a person will experience discharge and an intense burning when they pee.
It’s important that if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms to see your healthcare professional. Untreated infections become harder to treat as they progress. They can also spread into the bloodstream, leading to sepsis which is a life-threatening event.
Causes and Risk Factors
The infection happens when bacteria gets an opportunity to enter the urinary tract and multiply. This can happen in a number of different ways. Those with vulvas are at a significantly higher risk for UTIs. On average, for every penis person, eight other vulva people will get an infection. The bacteria has a smaller distance to travel to reach the bladder to multiply.
Other risk factors for urinary tract infections include:
Reduced mobility after surgery or long bedrest
Urinary tract blockages or obstructions such as certain forms of cancer, or enlarged prostate
Prolonged use of urinary catheters
Diabetes, particularly if poorly controlled
A weakened immune system
Diagnosis and Treatment
UTIs are usually diagnosed through a urine sample. Your doctor will ask you to provide a sample which they will test. The sample usually needs to be from the midstream to avoid any bacteria that may be on the skin that could contaminate the sample. If the test indicates an infection, your health care provider will discuss the best options for treatment.
Most infections can be treated with a regimen of oral antibiotics. In extreme or advanced cases an IV treatment may be required. Common antibiotics that could be prescribed includes
Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, others)
Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
Once treatment is started, you will start to feel better within a few days but it’s important the full treatment is completed to ensure that all the bacteria is killed off.
It’s possible to reduce the risk of infection with certain hygiene practices. Those with vulvas should always wipe from front to back after expelling waste. Another method of reducing the risk is to pee after vaginal intercourse. Women and other vulva people can also reduce their risks by drinking cranberry juice or taking daily cranberry supplements. Probiotics can also help create and inhabitable environment of bacteria to breed.
Other ways you can reduce the risks of getting a urinary tract infection is to ensure that you are drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. It’s also important not to hold urine for long periods of time.
Keep Yourself Healthy & Avoid Urinary Tract Infections!
Learning more about your health, including sexual health, is key to keeping yourself healthy and happy. The healthier we are, the more energy and attention we can give the intimate parts of our lives.