I added this article because I was unexpectedly diagnosed with a UTI while in the ER. I did not have any of the symptoms, (except perhaps the lower back pain that my endocrinologist treated with hydrocortisone the week before?)
The ER doctor diagnosed the UTI but failed to give me an antibiotic to treat it; I was sent home after she called my primary doctor. There is no mention of a UTI in my discharge papers. My primary doctor sent no further instructions. WTF? Is that malpractice?
The next day I researched UTIs, because I know nothing about them; I found that they can become quite dangerous if left untreated and can spread into the kidneys causing permanent damage.
I met with my therapist today to talk about my health and well being. We discussed the ER visit and the primary doctor’s response. I am now looking for a new primary doctor.
(Note: my endocrinologist prescribed the needed antibiotics.)
Every year, urinary tract infections account for nearly 10 million doctor visits. One in five women will have at least one urinary tract infection in her lifetime.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria (germs) get into the urinary tract and multiply. The urinary tract is made up of the bladder, urethra and the two ureters and kidneys. These germs usually enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, and travel up to the bladder. The result is redness, swelling and pain in the urinary tract. If a UTI is not treated promptly, the bacteria can move up to the kidneys and cause a more serious type of infection, called pyelonephritis.
Are certain people more likely to get UTIs?
Yes. While anyone can get them, some people are more likely than others.
Women get UTIs much more often than men do, possibly because they have a shorter urethra, which may make it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder.
People with diabetes experience changes in their body’s defense system that may make it easier for them to get UTIs.
People with a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate gland may have their urine flow blocked, which can cause a UTI. Men who get UTIs often have an enlarged prostate glands.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
Some people have no symptoms, but most have one or more of the following:
The symptoms of a bladder infection include:
- Cloudy or bloody urine, which may have a foul or strong odor
- Low fever in some people
- Pain or burning with urination
- Pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen or back
- Strong need to urinate often, even right after the bladder has been emptied
If the infection spreads to your kidneys, symptoms may include:
- Chills and shaking or night sweats
- Fatigue and a general ill feeling
- Fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pain in the side, back, or groin
- Flushed, warm, or reddened skin
- Mental changes or confusion (in the elderly, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Very bad abdominal pain (sometimes)
If the infection spreads to the kidneys and becomes more severe, it may result in pain in the lower back as well as fever, chills, [mental confusion], nausea and vomiting. See your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
How are UTIs treated?
Your doctor will test a sample of your urine for bacteria and blood cells. Different medications called antibiotics may also be tested to see which one works best against the bacteria. UTIs treated with antibiotics often clear up after one or two days of treatment. However, your doctor may ask you to take the antibiotic for one or two weeks to make sure the infection has been cured. In addition your doctor may suggest you take a pain reliever, use a heating pad and drink plenty of fluids.
What can be done for women who get repeated UTIs?
Women who get UTIs three or more times a year should speak to their doctor. The doctor may order special tests (see previous question) and recommend one of the following dosages of an antibiotic:
Take low doses for six months or more
Take a single dose after having sex
Take for one or two days when symptoms of a UTI occur.
Are pregnant women more likely to get UTIs?
No, but UTIs may be more serious during pregnancy because they are more likely to travel to the kidneys. A pregnant woman with a UTI should consult her doctor to avoid potential problems like high blood pressure and premature delivery of her baby.
Can women do anything to help prevent UTIs?
Yes. The following steps may help to prevent UTIs:
Drink plenty of fluids. Some evidence suggests that drinking cranberry juice cocktail may reduce the chances of developing UTIs, because it contains compounds that may stop certain bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract wall.
Do not delay going to the bathroom when you need to urinate.
Cleanse the genital area every day and before having sex.
Do children get UTIs?
Parents should look for the following signs of a possible UTI in their children:
frequent urination, pain or burning when urinating, strong odor to the urine and cloudy or blood-tinged urine
new day or night wetting in a child who has been dry
If the infection spreads to the kidneys, the child may also have high fever and back pain and experience vomiting.
Do UTIs lead to kidney damage?
In most cases, UTIs can be treated successfully without causing kidney damage. UTIs caused by a kidney stone or (in men) an enlarged prostate gland can damage the kidneys if the problem is not corrected and the infection continues. UTIs in young children can may sometimes cause kidney damage if not treated promptly.
If you would like more information, please contact us.
© 2015 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.