UTIs are a common concern for women today. Since early treatment is essential in stopping the spread of infection, recognizing UTI symptoms and seeking treatment immediately is important. It can make the difference between an infection that goes away quickly, or a problem that persists, causing you great discomfort and possibly spreading to your kidneys.
Common Causes of a UTI
A UTI (urinary tract infection) is an infection that occurs in the urinary tract, usually resulting from bacteria entering the bladder through the urethra. Many women will experience a UTI throughout the course of a lifetime, and UTIs are seen more frequently in women than men.
The most common UTIs in women are cystitis and urethritis, which are infections of the bladder and urethra, respectively.
Cystitis (infection of the bladder)
This type is usually caused when E. coli, typically found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, makes its way into the bladder. It can be caused by other bacteria as well.
While sexual intercourse can cause an infection of the bladder, you do not have to be sexually active to develop cystitis. The proximity of the bladder, urethra, and anus make all women particularly susceptible to developing this type of infection.
Urethritis (infection of the urethra)
In addition to contamination from bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, this can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections like herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
Common Symptoms of UTIs
Persistent pain or burning when you pee is one of the first signs that you may have a UTI. Drinking a lot of water at the first sign of painful urination may be helpful to flush out the bacteria. If painful urination only happens once and then disappears, and you don’t have any other symptoms, then your body may have already flushed the harmful bacteria.
Strong Urge to Go
If you feel a strong urge to go pee all the time, but relieving your bladder does not bring you relief, you may be experiencing a UTI. You feel like you have a full bladder all the time, but when you try to relieve yourself, only a painful trickle comes out.
Change in Urine
Any cloudy, red, brown, or discolored urine is a sign of infection. If it clears up in a day or so, it may be attributed to the food you ate, like beets, for instance. If not, it’s cause for concern.
In addition, strong-smelling urine (and not because you just ate asparagus) is also a tell-tale sign that something is awry.
Abdominal pain that feels like pressure or cramping around your bladder is often mistaken for period pain. If you have pain, cramping, and muscle aches, don’t rule out a UTI as these are often the most pronounced symptoms women report from a UTI.
As with any infection, the body ramps up its production of white blood cells in the face of an infection, leaving you feeling more tired than usual. If you notice that you are more tired than usual, in combination with any other UTI symptoms, it is a red flag.
Uncommon Symptoms of UTIs
These are signs that your UTI is getting worse and may begin to affect your kidneys. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Along with the other symptoms, if you are experiencing a fever above 101°F or night sweats and chills, these are signs that the bacteria have moved into your kidneys.
If you experience two or more UTIs in a six month period, or three or more in a year, you are at an increased risk of developing more serious complications.
A regular course of antibiotics is the standard treatment for a UTI. Symptoms will most often subside within a few days of starting treatment. Finish the full course of antibiotic treatment even if you start to feel better to avoid a recurrence.
When Should You Call Your Doctor About UTI Symptoms and Treatments?
You should call your doctor about UTI symptoms and treatments as soon as you suspect you have one. They will confirm the diagnosis with a urine test. Most infections will go away within a few days of taking prescribed antibiotics. The sooner you see your doctor, the less likely your chances of developing further complications.
Signs a UTI Isn’t Fully Treated
If you have finished your full course of antibiotics and you are still experiencing UTI symptoms, your UTI may not be fully treated. Return to your doctor to discuss your options.