If you’ve ever experienced a urinary tract infection, or UTI, then you’re familiar with the miserable pain that often accompanies them. But a UTI isn’t just an uncomfortable annoyance. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to serious health complications, such as kidney infections or sepsis.
“A UTI occurs in your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethrae,” says Lindsey Chapman, FNP, a board-certified family nurse practitioner associated with Maury Regional Medical Group Urology in Columbia. “Everyone can experience UTIs, but they are especially common among women.”
The causes behind a UTI can vary — and may lead to additional symptoms — but five common signs to look out for include:
- A frequent and urgent need to urinate that only produces small amounts of urine
- A burning, painful sensation when urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Soreness or pressure in the lower belly
- Fever and/or cognitive changes, including confusion and agitation
“If you’re experiencing signs of a UTI, do not delay seeking care. You should visit your primary care provider, a urology specialist or an urgent care as soon as possible for a physical examination and urine test,” Chapman says. “The urine test is especially important as it plays a crucial role in evaluating the bacteria causing the UTI, which helps to guide the antibiotic selection when determining treatment.”
To avoid developing future UTIs, Chapman notes there are some steps women can take to reduce their risk, including:
- Staying hydrated and urinating regularly. You should be drinking six to eight glasses of water per day. The more you drink, the more frequently you’ll urinate — flushing out the bad bacteria in your urinary tract that may have led to an infection. (Just make sure to avoid holding it for more than three to four hours!)
- Maintaining good hygiene. Wiping from front to back can make a significant difference as can taking showers instead of baths, regularly changing pads or tampons while menstruating, avoiding tight-fitting clothing that can trap moisture and minimizing the use of deodorants and sprays in feminine products.
- Urinating before and after sexual activities to flush out bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex.
- Changing your birth control methods. Diaphragms, spermicides and non-lubricated condoms can increase bacteria growth that may lead to a UTI. If you are using these forms of birth control and are experiencing frequent UTIs, consider talking to your doctor about alternative options.
- Drinking cranberry juice or taking a cranberry supplement.
If you experience frequent UTIs, talk with your primary care provider or a urology specialist to see if there might be an underlying condition contributing to your UTIs.
Lindsey Chapman, FNP,
is a board-certified family nurse practitioner associated with Maury Regional Medical Group Urology, which is located at 1222 Trotwood Avenue, Suite 601, in Columbia, Tennessee. For more information, call 931.840.8547 or visit MauryRegionalMedicalGroup.com.