Urinary Tract Infection - How to Treat Your UTI Easily and Effectively
Do you know that you can prevent urinary tract infections by taking plenty of water? Water is also one of the safe self-remedies for UTI and other disorders.
How is that? It is not hard to guess. Taking a lot of water, whether you are thirsty or not, can help flush out harmful bacteria that mainly cause urinary tract infections.
The more water you take, the more runs you make to your bathroom, and the merrier (read healthier) it is to your urinary tract.
You don't have to get tired of visiting your bathroom as many times as you feel like it. It is a healthy way of cleaning your bladder.
Do you remember the proverbial8 glasses per day or more? Make it your daily habit whether you are healthy or have other health issues unless your doctor cautions against it.
What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
Urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection that occurs in any part of the renal system mainly caused by microorganisms. The urinary system comprises kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra.
UTI is the most common infection among many others. About 50% of people and especially women have had at least one UTI in their lifetime. It means that 1 in every 2 women and 1 in every 10 men have a high lifetime risk of getting a UTI.
Facts About Urinary Tract Infection
Why is UTI more common in women? Women have a high chance of getting UTI than men due to short urethra.
A woman's rectum is closer to the urethra opening as opposed to a man's. It is easy and possible for the anal microorganisms to enter the urethra through its opening.
The germ then quickly infects the urethra and other areas of your urinary system, such as the bladder.
The urinary tract infection is not contagious. It cannot move from one partner to another during sex. However, you can transfer bacteria that cause UTI to your partner.
If you have anal sex and then revert to regular sex, you can either pass or receive the bowel bacteria, which causes UTI.
UTI is curable. Most of the minor infections clear on their own, and if not, you can seek early medical treatment, which may take two to three days to clear the infection.
However, some types of UTI can be complicated and challenging to treat with regular therapy. Such infections would require a higher dose of antibiotics in IV.
The Lower and the Upper Urinary Tracts
The Urinary tract is composed of two parts, the lower urinary tract and the upper urinary tract.
The lower urinary tract: The lower urinary tract consists of the urethra and the bladder. The infections involved in this lower part of the urinary tract are urethritis and cystitis.
The upper urinary tract: The upper urinary tract consists of two parts, the two ureters, and the two kidneys. The UTI of the upper urinary tract is pyelonephritis which affects the kidneys.
Types of Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infection, as the name suggests, can occur anywhere along the urinary tract region. The location of the disease defines the type of UTI. The following are different types of UTI:
Urethritis: Urethritis is a urethra infection and inflammation. The urethra is part of the urinary tract that empties urine from the bladder to the opening for elimination. Bacteria is the common cause of urethritis which leads to painful urination.
Cystitis: Cystitis is a type of urinary tract infection that affects the bladder. The disease can cause inflammation leading to irritation, redness, painful urination, and bloody urine. The primary cause of cystitis is bacteria spreading from the urethra and onto the bladder.
Pyelonephritis: Pyelonephritis is a kidney infection caused by bacteria ascending from the bladder. The condition can either be acute or chronic and can affect one kidney or both.
High fever, nausea, change of body temperature, vomiting, and upper back or side pain are some of the pyelonephritis symptoms.
Asymptomatic Bacteriuria: Some of the UTIs are asymptomatic. It means that the bacteria enter the urinary tract and remain there without showing any infection symptoms. These kinds of bacteria are called asymptomatic bacteriuria.
Asymptomatic bacteriuria mostly affects:
- Elderly person
- A person with a bladder catheter or birth control device
- Pregnant mother
- Diabetic patient
It is unclear why it is asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) or why it is different from symptoms causing infection. Possibly, the bacteria are not strong enough to cause infection.
However, besides no infection or symptoms, your doctor may decide whether to use antibiotics or not. Some asymptomatic bacteriuria can later develop symptoms to cause some health complications and hence the need to manage and treat it.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infection?
Bacteria: The leading cause of UTI is a specific bacterium called Escherichia coli or E coli from the digestive system. The bacterium carried by the body wastes enters the urinary tract through the urethra opening. Other bacteria such as staphylococcus saprophyticus can also cause UTI.
UTI is more common with women because of the near distance between the anal and the urinary tract opening, which is an easy entrance of the bacteria.
Once the bacteria find a conducive environment inside your urinary tract, it multiplies and spreads to cause urinary tract infection.
Device and health condition: An existing condition or device that would interfere with urination or cause irritation in the urinary tract.
Other Rare Causes of Urinary Tract Infection
Fungal organisms: Although it is rare, candida and coccidioides may cause complicated types of UTI.
Virus: Some virus can cause UTI, such as herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)
Parasites: Some of the parasites suspected to cause UTI are flukes and threadworms
Risk Factors of Urinary Tract Infection
Some of the UTI risk factors:
- Age and menopause
- Constrained urination such as kidney stones or enlarged prostate
- A urinary catheter
- Some conditions that weaken or compromise the immune system, such as diabetes and HIV
- Female anatomy
- Unhygienic sexual activity or with multiple partners
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Birth control and a spermicidal agent
- An extended period of bed rest or immobility
- Abnormal conditions such as constipation, kidney stones, or an enlarged prostate can cause urine retention or back up the urine in the bladder
- Recent surgery or an examination procedure performed in the urinary tract using medical instruments
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection
The general urinary tract infection symptoms may include:
- Slight pain from burning sensation during urination
- An urge to pass urine even when there is none
- Passing urine frequently
- Smelly urine
- Colored urine, mostly red, cloudy, dark red, or pink
- Pelvic pain, especially in women
- Men rectal pain
Additional Symptoms for Upper Urinary Tract Infection
Besides the general symptoms, you could experience different others if your UTI has spread to the kidneys to cause acute pyelonephritis or severe kidney infection. Some of the symptoms are:
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain at the area of kidneys, in the sides and upper back
Urinary Tract Infection vs. Yeast Infection
The common characteristics between urinary tract infection and yeast infection are the burning pain or discomfort while passing urine.
Yeast and UTI are two common and yet different genital infections with almost similar symptoms. Also, the two have different causes, diagnoses, and treatments.
Surprisingly, the two infections can comorbid or occur at the same time.
Although urinary tract infection may have severe kidney failure complications, it takes only a few days for the infection to clear if with the right treatment. On the other hand, a yeast infection can be challenging to treat.
Poor hygiene habits can cause both types of infections, especially in females. For instance, if you wipe back to front after using the toilet, you can transfer bowel bacteria to the urinary tract.
On the other hand, yeast infection also thrives in a wet unhygienic environment. Remaining in wet innerwear for a long time, such as a swimsuit after swimming or gym clothes, can lead to yeast infection.
Lack of treatment, late or wrong treatment can lead to complications for both infections. Kidney infection is one of the UTI complications, while yeast infection becomes chronic.
According to one CNN report, some uncomplicated UTI cases become severe and complicated due to wrong antibiotic prescriptions.
UTI and yeast infections occur commonly in women than men because of body anatomy. Also, menopausal women have declining estrogen, a hormone that protects the urinary tract from UTI and yeast infection. Low estrogen can expose anyone to such infections.
Please do not ignore any discomfort or slight burning pain in your genital area when passing urine; it might either be UTI or yeast infection. Visit your doctor for a consultation to have your condition diagnosed and to begin your treatment immediately.
Unlike UTI, a yeast infection can be stubborn and challenging to treat. It keeps on recurring, probably from inappropriate treatment or unhygienic activities. Visit your doctor immediately if you suspect any recurrence or worsening of the infection.
Diagnosing Urinary Tract Infection
Diagnosing procedure is what precedes treatment. Before any doctor prescribes some medicines or any other treatment, they would first establish the condition at hand. Some methods would be helpful to verify and prove the initial assumption.
It is always best to visit your doctor for the right diagnosis instead of self-diagnosis. Mistaken assumption of the symptoms may lead to wrong treatment.
The following are some of the urinary tract infections diagnosing procedures:
Medical history: Once you visit your doctor or physician, they would like to know more about your condition. How it all started and how you are feeling. Your doctor would jot down your medical history associated with your condition.
Urine sample: Your doctor may require a urine sample for analysis in the lab. The test should assess whether there are any traces of white or red blood cells and other microorganisms such as bacteria.
The best sample should be the one collected cleanly and hygienically. "Clean catch" is the method of collecting the required urine sample. The procedure is to wash the genital area first before collecting a urine sample.
The best urine sample should be from the midstream urine to avoid getting contaminated urine by any bacteria around the genital area.
Urine culture: Performing urine culture by growing the UTI-causing bacteria is a useful diagnosing procedure. The results from the culture would be to identify the type of bacteria responsible for the infection.
Such results would help the doctor prescribe the right medication to clear a particular microorganism.
CT scan: An X-ray, ultrasound, MRI scan, CT scan are imaging procedures. Your doctor may perform either of them with or without contrast dye. The dye should be necessary since it shows any urinary tract abnormality that would be the reason for the infection.
Cystoscopy: Cystoscopy is a diagnosing method necessary in viewing the urinary tract for any abnormality.
The cystoscopy is a long and thin tube-like lens the doctor inserts inside the urinary tract through the urethra and goes up to the bladder. It helps the doctor view the urinary tract. Your doctor can view the urethra, the bladder, and the opening part of your ureters.
The procedure can also help to diagnose other severe conditions such as bleeding, tumor, or cancer.
Urodynamics: Urodynamics is a test for the efficiency of the urinary tract, how the bladder, sphincters, and the urethra store and release urine. The procedure centers the examination on how the bladder holds and empties urine. Urine retention by the bladder is one cause of UTI.
But, how would the doctor treat your urinary tract infection? Read on to find out.
How to Treat Urinary Tract Infection
It is essential to get UTI treatment as early as you suspect you have it. If you wait or ignore it, the infection might spread to the extreme upper urinary tract. Besides the severity of UTI at the upper urinary tract, it can cause other complications such as sepsis and kidney infection.
Your treatment then would be successful if the doctor arrests the infection at the lower urinary tract.
The following are some UTI treatment:
Pain relief drugs: Your doctor would recommend acetaminophen as your painkiller. Some NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen can cause other UTI complications such as urine retention.
Another pain therapy is analgesic for relieving burning pain in the urethra and bladder by numbing the areas.
Antibiotics: The first-line treatment for UTI is by using antibiotics. The treatment medication and dosage depend on the infection severity, health status, and the microorganism involved.
Some of the common antibiotics for UTI are:
Intravenous Antibiotics: UV antibiotics are the choice of treatment for severe UTI cases. The type of antibiotics and the dosage would depend on the type of germ and your health condition.
UTI Alternative Treatment and Home Remedies
UTI is a stubborn infection that can keep recurring even after successful treatment. Treating the infection every time it recurs can cause other antibiotic-related health conditions.
As the antibiotics clear the UTI-causing bacteria, they can also remove the good bacteria such as lactobacilli, which maintains the urinary tract's pH balance.
For mild UTI cases, you can use herbal or alternative treatment for quick results and avoid antibiotic exposure.
Some of the alternative or herbal medicines for UTI are:
Cranberry: Although there is no proof that cranberry can help treat UTI, it is an old traditional remedy that has been in use for years. It is also a preventive remedy against UTI.
The chemical compounds in cranberries, such as D-mannose, anthocyanins, and hippuric acid, can help fight off the bacteria that might cause UTI. Cranberry may work similar to antibiotics either in prevention or treatment.
Garlic: Garlic stands over time as a traditional herbal treatment for various ailments. UTI can create bacteria strains that would be resistant to antibiotics. Garlic can work on such drug-resistant bacteria and other microorganisms effectively.
Garlic contains some useful chemical compounds such as allicin and sulfur, which can help fight some of the microorganisms that cause UTI. According to one study report by some Indian researchers, they confirm that garlic chemical compounds can treat antibiotic-resistant UTI.
D-mannose: According to one pilot study report, D-mannose can effectively manage acute cystitis and also become a prophylactic agent, especially in women. As we mentioned earlier, cystitis is a type of UTI.
Even though medical fields are yet to approve this pilot study, several other researches have successfully used D-mannose as a preventive and treatment agent. However, the natural therapy, which is in sugar-like form, might be unsuitable for diabetic patients and others who cannot handle simple sugar.
Probiotics: Introducing good bacteria such as lactobacillus, vaginally can help balance the bacteria cocktail in the urinary tract. Therefore, probiotics can produce good bacteria, which would prevent the UTI-causing bug from adhering to the urinary tract cells.
It is a therapy that sets the good bacteria against the bad ones to cause treatment. Before you begin this therapy, you would better get help from a natural health practitioner in selecting the best source of lactobacillus probiotics.
You can use some effective self-remedies to either kick out UTI or prevent it from occurring.
The following is a list of some common home remedies for urinary tract infection:
- Taking fluids in plenty and remain hydrated
- Pass urine immediately you have the urge
- Passing urine immediately after sexual intercourse
- Irreversible kidney damage
- Recurrent infections
How to Prevent UTI
You can lower your risk of UTI by observing the following procedures:
- Take plenty of water to maintain your urine less concentrated and help flush out any impurities in the urinary tract
- Wipe from front to back after toilet use to avoid introducing any bowel bacteria in the urinary tract
- Change your birth control devices and sexual products
- Drink cranberry juice which can prevent as well as treat UTI
- Flush out your urinary tract after sex by passing out urine
- Change your swimsuits or gym clothes immediately after using them
- Pass urine immediately you feel the urge
Urinary tract infection is a common disorder which many people would be uncomfortable discussing openly. It is a serious condition you should not take lightly. If you fail to have it treated immediately, you risk the bacteria spread and more complications.
The critical stage of UTI is when it spreads to damage the kidneys. It can also enter your bloodstream to cause sepsis which can become fatal.
If you suspect that you have UTI, visit your doctor immediately for diagnosis and early treatment. You can also talk to us or Ask Yvonne about anything concerning your condition or any other health issue.
Our Island Healthworks Natural Clinic is based in Nanoose Bay. You can visit us if you live nearby. Yvonne, our Natural Health Practitioner, performs clinic services in other regions such as Victoria, Vancouver, and the Lower Mainland. If you are not able to come to the clinic, Yvonne will be happy to do a free phone consultation
Please help us spread UTI awareness by sharing this information with your family, friends, and social media contacts. Remember also to write your comments based on this subject or any other health matter.
Island Healthworks offers in-person and virtual consultations for assessment of your specific needs, with health & lifestyle coaching, featuring the best of integrative natural health care. To book your consultation, please call 250-468-7685!
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.