Did you know around 10 million doctor office visits and 1.5 million hospitalizations per year are due to urinary tract infections (UTIs)? In fact, one in every five women will get at least one UTI in her lifetime. Twenty percent of women who get a UTI will get another, and 30 percent of women who have had two will get a third infection. For the most part, UTIs are not serious and can be easily treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, a mild infection can lead to more severe and complicated health issues.
A urinary tract infection is when any part of a person’s urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra) has an infection. Most of these infections are found in the lower urinary tract, bladder, and/or the urethra. A UTI becomes more serious when it spreads to the kidneys. Men have a unique tissue in their urinary tract called prostate which can be infected.
How do UTIs occur? Most UTIs are caused by different bacteria (staph saprophyticus, E. coli), some of which can be found in feces. Since the urethra, vaginal and bowel openings are close to one another, it can be easy for bacteria to spread and travel up the urethral tract into the bladder. When the bacteria multiply, an invasive infection can occur. If the infection is in the urethra, this is called urethritis. If the infection involves the bladder it is diagnosed as cystitis. If the bacteria migrate upward further into the kidney tissue itself a more serious and systemic infection ensues. Bacterial kidney infection is called pyelonephritis (infection of the kidneys). In pyelonephritis the culprit bacteria can enter the bloodstream which can be life-threatening. Blood born infection is known as bacteremia.
Symptoms of urinary infectious include:
- The strong urge to urinate that doesn’t go away
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Cloudy urine and/or urine that is red/pink in color
- Strong-smelling urine.
- Pelvic pain around the public bone
- Urinating in small, but frequent, amounts
- Sudden onset of severe high fever with rigors (shaking chills) can be seen in deeper infection such as the kidney, blood stream or prostate.
For most cases, a doctor will ask the patient to give a urinate sample to be analyzed for infection. Physical examination can help sort out pyelonephritis and prostatitis (prostate involvement). If there is an infection, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. The type of antibiotic and duration is dependent on the type of bacteria found in the urine and the level or stage of infection. Symptoms will usually clear up in a few days, but may take a week or more to fully disappear. Severe or frequent UTIs will require different types of treatment, including low-dose antibiotics (six months or longer), vaginal estrogen therapy, or intravenous antibiotics.
If you’re concerned you may have a UTI, don’t hesitate and get it checked by a physician so it doesn’t spread and infect your kidneys. Dr. Kordonowy of Internal Medicine, Lipid & Wellness can test to see if you have an infection and treat the infection (if there is one). Dr. Kordonowy is a concierge, patient membership physician in Fort Myers, and provides direct primary care services. To book an appointment, click here or call 239-362-3005, ext. 200.