Not all urinary tract infections are the same.
Most of the time, you don’t think twice about going to the restroom. Urinating is a simple, pain-free process. But when bacteria enter the urethra (tube through which urine exits the body), a urinary tract infection (UTI) can affect your bladder or kidneys, causing pain and other troublesome symptoms.
“It is rare for a woman to not have at least UTI in her life,” said Barbara Henley, MD, urogynecologist on staff at Augusta University Health. “However, not all pelvic floor symptoms are caused by infection and UTIs are rarely dangerous.”
Experiencing a UTI
Just as every woman is unique, so is every UTI. Some women live with UTIs for long periods of time and aren’t aware of it because the infection doesn’t cause any symptoms. In these cases, the infection goes untreated without causing any issues.
Other women, however, experience a host of troublesome symptoms that can affect their quality of life. Common UTI symptoms include:
• blood in the urine
• burning or painful urination
• fever and chills
• nausea or vomiting
• need to frequently urinate
• lower abdominal/groin cramping or pressure
A urine culture test performed by your primary care physician provides a definitive UTI diagnosis. In many cases, testing is not necessary. Symptoms alone are often sufficient for a diagnosis.
Symptoms common with UTIs doesn’t always mean a patient has a UTI. Because UTI symptoms mirror other conditions, if you experience frequent UTIs, your physician may need to rule out other conditions through additional testing.
While antibiotics quickly cure UTIs, prevention remains the best medicine. The easiest way to avoid UTIs is to drink plenty of water every day. For additional protection, there is evidence that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets daily may prevent UTIs. And remember that while an occasional UTI is expected, you should seek medical attention if you have more than two in six months or three in a year.
“A lot of women come to me more afraid of UTIs than diabetes and hypertension,” Dr. Henley said. “I encourage them to put it in perspective. They shouldn’t ignore their symptoms, but they should stay calm and know we have the tools to treat it and get them back to normal life.”