Recognizing the signs of a urinary tract infection

Recognizing the signs of a urinary tract infection

Ladies can you think of a time when you or one of your friends had a urinary tract infection (UTI)? If you answered yes — it’s not surprising.

Data from the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse shows that nearly 8.1 million visits to a doctor each year have to do with UTIs, making it the second most common type of infection. This explains why we hear about them so much.

Dr. Robert Pasciak, a urologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says these numbers are not a shock: “UTIs are very common, particularly with women and even little girls, but generally not seen in men.”

A urinary tract infection is an infection involving the organs or structures of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

In adult women, the issue becomes more common with sexual activity, Pasciak says.

“A woman’s urethra, which is a tube for emptying the bladder, is relatively short, so bacteria can build up and make its way to the bladder very quickly,” Pasciak explains. “Personal hygiene is very important to prevent the bacteria with proper wiping after sexual encounters and urination.”

Dr. Pasciak says that UTI symptoms to look for include:

  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain in the back or lower abdomen
  • Cloudy urine, possibly with a strong odor
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination

Pasciak adds that sometimes you may not have any symptoms at all, so the infection may go undiscovered until a future check-up.

Men and the urinary system

Pasciak notes that UTIs are very rare for men but can be serious. In the case they do see any uncommon issues with their urination and bladder; they should talk to their doctors right away.

“With men, issues with the bladder or urinary system can occur with age due to structural abnormalities affecting the urinary tract from clearing out urine and bacteria or even prostate problems,” Pasciak says.

An enlarged prostate can cause obstruction to the urinary tract and increase the negative risks for men, such as infection. Frequent UTIs in men can be related to prostatitis. Pasciak recommends an x-ray or ultrasound for verification of any issues.

UTIs and children

Bladder infections and UTIs can be very common for children in potty training stages, especially for young girls, Pasciak says.

Because using the potty can take time to learn, infections can occur more often if children are holding their bladders or do not know the proper wiping techniques.

“It’s important that parents teach their children the proper way to wipe at the earliest age; cleaning after each urination from front to back,” Pasciak says. “Stressing the importance of using the toilet when they have to go is also key.”

Prevention and treatment of UTIs

General prevention of UTIs involves making healthy lifestyle choices. Pasciak recommends cleansing before and after sexual activity; urinating when you have the urge; keeping hydrated and even adding cranberries or cranberry juice to your diet. Cranberries are believed to help prevent the UTI-causing bacteria from building up in the urinary tract lining.

“For some, chronic infections are a commonality and those that do have the reoccurrence of a UTI may benefit from long-term antibiotics,” Pasciak says.

The bottom line is that when you notice a change in any urinary patterns to see your physician to receive proper treatment, Pasciak advises.

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  1. Wow, I never realized how common UTIs are. Thanks for the great preventative information!

  2. It is a relief to know that urinary tract infections are rare in men. I have had some irregularities when urinating, but nothing major. So, I’ll probably wait another day or two to see if it clears up before I go to my doctor. Thanks for posting.

About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.