Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Urinary Tract Infections

By: Kelly Roberts, MD - UCF Health Center Doctor

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are one of the most common reasons that women come to the health center. It is estimated that 20% of women will have a urinary tract infection at some point in their lifetime. Many women have multiple urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enters the bladder, which normally does not contain any bacteria. A UTI is considered “simple” if only the bladder is affected. On the other hand, if the infection spreads to the kidneys, a much more serious condition called pyelonephritis is present.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections include pain or burning on urination, frequent urination, feeling the need to get to the bathroom urgently, and blood in the urine. It is also common to feel bladder pressure or lower back pain. The diagnosis of a simple UTI can often be made based on your symptoms alone. If the diagnosis is unclear, however, your medical provider will often require a urine sample for testing. If a urine sample is needed, it is very important that you follow the collection instructions closely; otherwise, the test may be difficult to interpret. Proper collection involves wiping the opening to the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world) with three separate cloths, allowing a few drops of urine to fall into the toilet, and then collecting the remainder of the urine.

The treatment for a simple Urinary Tract Infection is a course of antibiotics, typically 1 to 7 days in duration. The antibiotics (such as Ciprofloxacin and Bactrim), will kill off the bacteria in the bladder. Sometimes your medical provider may also prescribe a medication which does not cure the infection, but can quickly decrease the symptoms of the urinary tract infection. This medication may turn your urine orange or red. It should not be used longer than two days as you want to be certain that the antibiotics are working and that the symptoms have resolved with in two days.

Some individuals have frequent urinary tract infections. If you have UTIs occurring more than 4-6 times per year, I recommend at least one evaluation by an urologist (a specialist who works with the urinary tract system). If the urinary tract system is normal, preventative treatment with regular antibiotics can be considered.

It is very important to treat urinary tract infections quickly. If left untreated, a simple UTI may progress to a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). Signs of kidney infection include fever, vomiting, upper back pain, and malaise (generally feeling sick). If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see your medical provider promptly, as a kidney infection can be very serious and sometimes requires hospitalization.

Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria travel up the urethra to the bladder. Sexual intercourse may promote this migration. The frequency of UTIs can be decreased by frequently and completely emptying the bladder. Cranberry juice, if consumed on a regular basis, may also reduce your risk for recurrent UTIs.

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