Our bodies process and eliminate waste from what we eat and drink day in and day out for our entire lives. They really never stop working. When there’s a problem though, you find out quickly how much it can disrupt your life.
If you’ve ever experienced a need to urinate that just doesn’t seem to abate, no matter how often you go, or an intense burning when a few drops finally do come out, chances are you could be suffering from a urinary tract infection, or UTI.
Though they do affect men, women are an astonishing 30 times more likely to get UTIs. At DeKalb OB/GYN Affiliates, board-certified OB/GYN Shirley Rigaud-Echols, MD, and our sensitive, knowledgeable team approach caring for your UTI with a powerful combination of up-to-the-minute medical expertise and compassion. Dedicated to providing the best women’s health care, you’re our top priority.
What causes UTIs and why are they so common in women?
First, it’s important to know the major components of the urinary tract. Your kidneys make urine and tubes known as ureters transport that urine to your bladder. When you urinate, your urine travels through your urethra in order to exit your body.
UTIs are bacterial infections, most linked to the E. coli bacteria, and the female anatomy is the primary reason women are more susceptible than men. Since your urethra is significantly shorter than a man’s, and the opening is relatively close to your vagina and anus, it’s much easier for bacteria to enter your urethra and take hold.
This is why we always teach girls to wipe front to back when they go to the bathroom. Sexual intercourse is another risk factor for getting a UTI, as is being menopausal.
Additional symptoms of UTIs to look out for
The hallmark symptoms of a UTI are the urgency to urinate and the burning, but you may also notice an odor to your urine or that it’s cloudy or pinkish in color, which indicates the presence of blood. Some women acquire UTIs that reveal no symptoms at all.
Types of UTIs determined by location
There are several types of UTIs, and the specific symptoms you suffer are linked to where your infection is.
If the UTI is located in your bladder, it’s known as cystitis and defined by always feeling like you need to urinate. When you do, you might see urine that’s blood-tinted. You may also experience pelvic pain.
When your UTI settles in your urethra, you may notice discharge when you go to the bathroom and, similar to cystitis, burning. This is called urethritis.
If your kidneys are where your UTI originates, you can have severe symptoms such as fever, upper back pain, and nausea and vomiting.
Fortunately, Dr. Rigaud-Echols can determine what type of UTI you have and treat it successfully with a simple urinalysis test, which reveals indicators of UTIs, such as the presence of bacteria and a high white blood cell count. She may also recommend a urine culture, which pinpoints the bacteria that’s behind your UTI within a few days.
Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Regaud-Echols can decide which antibiotic — the treatment of choice for UTIs — is best for treating your infection.
If your symptoms don’t subside, Dr. Regaud-Echols may utilize imaging tests, like an ultrasound, to investigate further and adjust her treatment plan.
How can I lower my risk for UTIs?
When Dr. Rigaud-Echols treats you for a UTI, she also discusses preventive measures you can take to lower your risk for future infections. These include:
- Staying well-hydrated
- Drinking cranberry juice regularly; its compounds make it more difficult for bacteria to attach to your urinary tract walls
- Emptying your bladder before and after sexual intercourse
- Opting for a birth control method other than a diaphragm and spermicide, which kills good bacteria
- Cleaning your genital area well daily
- Never delaying urinating if you feel the urge
- Keep your genital area dry by changing out of wet clothes quickly, taking short baths, and choosing underwear with a cotton crotch
You can do many things to prevent a dreaded UTI, but know that if you are one of the 8.1 million women struck with one each year, the DeKalb OB/GYN Associates team can help! Call our office or request an appointment online today.