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Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) most commonly involves the bladder and urethra, found in the lower urinary tract. In some cases, however, a UTI can infect the kidneys and the ureters as well.

Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

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In many UTI cases, there are no symptoms. But when symptoms are present, they may include:

  • A strong and persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • The frequent passing of small amounts of urine
  • Cloudy urine or urine that appears pink, red or brownish
  • Urine with a strong odor
  • Pelvic pain in women or rectal pain in men

The types of symptoms experienced typically correspond to the area of infection:

Infection InSigns & Symptoms
  • Urethra (urethritis)
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Bladder (cystitis)
  • Lower abdomen discomfort
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Frequent, painful urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis)
  • Pain in upper back and side
  • High fever
  • Chills & shaking
  • Nausea & vomiting

Skip to details on when to see a doctor.

Typical causes of urinary tract infections

Most urinary tract infections occur when the urinary system’s defense mechanisms fail, allowing bacteria to enter the urinary tract and multiply in the bladder. If the bacteria take hold, a full-blown infection results.

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Testing for a UTI

There are a number of ways to test for and diagnose UTIs. These include:

Urine sample analysis:

An in-office analysis will look for the presence of white and red blood cells or bacteria. To prevent contamination of the sample, you may be asked to wipe your genital area with an antiseptic pad before collecting urine midstream.

A urine culture:

Recurrent infections often need follow-up with a urine culture. This test uses your urine sample to grow bacteria in a lab. The results will help your doctor determine what type of bacteria is causing the infection and which medications will be most effective in treating it.

Imaging:

In some cases, an ultrasound, CT scan or IVP (test using X-rays) may be recommended. These tests often include dye to highlight the urinary tract structure. Creating images of your urinary tract helps your doctor determine whether or not your infection is caused by a structural abnormality.

Cystoscopy:

In extreme cases in which a UTI is complicated or recurrent, your MD Now doctor may refer you to a specialist who will perform a cystoscopy. A cystoscope is a long, thin tube with a lens attached that’s used to see inside the urethra and bladder.

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Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections

The most common treatment for urinary tract infections is antibiotics. The type of drug and duration of treatment will depend on the type of bacterium causing the infection and the overall condition of your health. Although most symptoms will usually clear up within a few days of starting the medication, make sure you continue the entire course of treatment prescribed by your doctor. Otherwise, the infection could return.

If necessary, you will also be given an analgesic to relieve the painful burning sensation while urinating. This could turn your urine orange or red.

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Types of people prone to urinary tract infections

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In general, women are more likely to develop urinary tract infections than men. This is because they have a shorter urethra which means bacteria doesn’t have to travel as far to reach the bladder. Others more prone to UTIs include those with diabetes and other diseases impairing the immune system. Anyone who has trouble urinating on his or her own due to paralysis or neurological problems is also at greater risk.

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When to visit your nearest MD Now Urgent Care

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If symptoms last more than 24 hours, it’s time to come in for testing and diagnosis. For the elderly, pregnant, infants, children or those susceptible to complications, or for those experiencing any of the following symptoms, immediate evaluation is recommended.

  • Vomiting and an inability to keep even clear fluids or medication down
  • Those showing no improvement after the second day of antibiotics
  • Anyone with diabetes or another disease affecting the immune system
  • Those taking medications, such as chemotherapy, that impair or suppress the immune system.
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How to prepare for your visit

Before you come in, make a list of the medications and supplements you are currently taking. Also, make a note of any allergies you experience. This information will help your doctor choose the best treatment for your needs.

Also, be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • When did you first notice symptoms?
  • How frequently do you urinate?
  • Are you experiencing fever, lower back pain or blood in the urine?
  • Have you experienced similar problems in the past?
  • If female, could you be pregnant?
  • Are you currently under treatment for other medical problems?
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Complications from UTIs

Most urinary tract infections clear up with treatment. If left untreated, however, they can lead to more serious problems. These include:

  • Recurrent infections
  • Permanent kidney damage resulting from a chronic or acute kidney infection (pyelonephritis), especially in young children
  • In women, an increased risk of delivering premature or low birth weight infants
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Ways to prevent UTIs

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To reduce your risk of urinary tract infections, make sure you:

  • Wipe from front to back to prevent anal bacteria from spreading to the vagina or urethra.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids. Frequent urination flushes bacteria from your urinary tract and helps prevent infection.
  • Avoid deodorant sprays, douches, powders and other potentially irritating feminine products
  • Choose cotton underwear for its breathability
  • Steer clear of pants that are too tight in the crotch
  • Empty your bladder immediately following intercourse. Drinking a full glass of water also helps flush the bacteria from your system.
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“The above is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. If you require medical advice or treatment, you should go to MD Now Urgent Care, your physician, or the nearest ER for evaluation.”

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