Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common type of infection in the United States (first is the flu). They account for about 8.1 million visits to health care providers every year.
Most UTIs occur when E. coli bacteria (normally found in the intestines) finds its way into the urinary tract (urethra, bladder, ureter, and kidneys — plus prostate in men.) Other bacteria, as well as infectious agents such as viruses and fungi, can also cause UTIs. In our experience, there is no clear personality or “type” of person who gets a UTI. As with most things in life, there are many factors involved, including gender, lifestyle, sexual activity, stress level, the presence of urinary obstructions, the use of urinary catheters, plus any pre-existing medical condition that affects the low back and/or pelvis.
Who Gets Urinary Tract Infections?
For anatomical reasons, women are more prone to UTIs than men. The lifetime risk for a woman having a UTI is more than 50 percent. Women are also more likely suffer from a one- to two-year periods of frequent UTIs. With each UTI, the risk that a woman will continue having recurrent UTIs increases. Very few women, however, will have frequent infections throughout their lives.
Even though pregnant women do NOT have more UTIs than other women, when they do occur in pregnant women, the infection is more likely to travel all the way up into the kidneys, which makes the scope of the infection much worse. For this reason, health care providers regularly screen pregnant women for UTIs.
Conversely, men have fewer UTIs; however, when they do occur, they can much more severe. Urinary tract infections in men are often the result of an obstruction—pelvic floor dysfunction, enlarged prostate, urinary stricture, a urinary stone, surgical scarring, or from the use of a medical catheter.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis is usually more difficult to cure because antibiotics have a harder time reaching the infected prostate tissue. For this reason, men with chronic bacterial prostatitis often need long-term antibiotic treatment with a carefully selected antibiotic. Acute bacterial prostatitis, which can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early, is also associated with UTIs.
On rare occasions, bladder cancer masquerades as a chronic urinary tract infection, which is why we take the extra steps to rule out the possibility of any life-threatening diseases. Our patients with recurring UTIs breathe a lot easier knowing that they don’t have cancer — and that makes treatment a lot easier.
Spectrum of Urinary Tract Symptoms
Common Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
- Big urge to urinate, yet only a small amount of urine is released
- Painful, itchy, burning feeling in the urethra and/or bladder during urination
- Feeling unusually tired, shaky, or weak for no apparent reason
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Cloudy, dark, or bloody urine
- Foul smelling urine
Less Common UTI Symptoms
- Back pain or pain along the sides below the ribs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever may indicate a kidney or prostate infection
- Medical history
- Physical exam
- Urine culture and sensitivity
- Kidney and bladder ultrasound
- Voiding cystourethrogram
- CT Scan
For Women and Men
- Drink 8-10 glasses of pure water every day.
- Take showers instead of baths
- Avoid urinary tract irritants (don’t eat anything you wouldn’t put on an open wound)
- Spicy foods (peppers, curry, wasabi)
- Acidic foods (citrus, tomatoes, apples, pineapple)
- Carbonated beverages (sodas, energy drinks)
- Caffeine (coffee, tea, even chocolate)
- Herbal/Homeopathic remedies
- Wipe from front-to-back after urination and bowl movements
- Avoid using birth control that can irritate your urinary tract (i.e. diaphragms and spermicides, if possible)
- Avoid douches and perfumes near the genitals
- Emptying you bladder before and after intercourse
- Oral Medications (Antibiotics)
- Bladder Analgesics (anesthetics such as AZO)
- Alkalinizes (baking soda)