Burning. Stinging. Frequent urges to head to the restroom. If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you’re all too familiar with the painful and uncomfortable symptoms.
Urinary tract infections are very common, particularly for women, whose anatomy makes them more likely. UTIs are the second most common type of infection, causing more than 8 million doctor visits each year.
An occasional UTI is to be expected for many women, but what should you do if you’re experiencing frequent urinary tract infections? Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic.
Defining Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection occurs when external bacteria travels into the body through the urinary tract, causing an infection in some part of your urinary system.
While the name references the urinary tract, urinary tract infections can impact any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra. Depending on the affected part of the urinary system, you may experience a wide range of unpleasant symptoms.
Because urinary tract infections are bacterial infections, it’s important to seek medical attention if you believe you have one. Your doctor can collect a urine sample to look for bacteria, and then prescribe an antibiotic to eradicate the bacteria.
UTI symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pressure
- Back or side pain
- More frequent need to urinate
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Urine that has a distinctive odor or is cloudy
How Urinary Tract Infections Are Treated
As mentioned above, a urinary tract infection is treated using an antibiotic. You may also be prescribed medications to help alleviate discomfort or the feelings of urgency that a UTI can cause.
For women who experience frequent urinary tract infections, your medical provider may recommend taking a prophylactic dose of an antibiotic before and after sexual activity. That’s because the urethra is close to the vagina, and sexual contact can increase exposure to bacteria.
Older women may be prescribed vaginal estrogen creams to restore pH balance and make recurrent infections less likely.
When Frequent Urinary Tract Infections May Be a Problem
If you’re experiencing recurrent urinary tract infections despite careful hygiene habits and other precautions, your medical provider may look into other potential causes of your infections.
While urinary tract infections are typically simply that, recurrent infections of any kind can signal that the body’s immune system is impaired.
Some other medical conditions can cause UTIs, including bladder prolapse in women and an enlarged prostate in men. People who have diabetes are at an increased risk of frequent urinary tract infections for a number of reasons, including increased sugar content in the bladder. Having a kidney stone blocking the urinary tract can also lead to UTIs.
In rarer circumstances, recurrent or lingering symptoms of a urinary tract infection may be a sign of bladder cancer. It’s important to note that UTIs do not cause bladder cancer; UTI-like symptoms that don’t go away after antibiotic treatment can simply be a sign of this type of cancer.
If you believe you have a urinary tract infection, prompt treatment is important. Contact your primary care provider, find an express care clinic, or request a virtual option with an Altru medical provider.