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A UTI is a bacterial infection in any part of the urinary system, with the bladder and urethra being the most common sites of infection.
Almost 50% of women will experience at least one UTI during their lifetime, while only around 5% of men will ever contract one. For both men and women, UTI symptoms can include painful urination, the frequent urge to go to the bathroom, discomfort in the lower abdomen and even fever.
Left untreated, a UTI can progress to more serious conditions, such as kidney infections. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of a UTI, it’s important to speak to a doctor immediately to discuss your symptoms and determine the best treatment for you.
Urinary tract infections are typically separated into two main categories: upper urinary tract infections and lower urinary tract infections.
Lower urinary tract infections are more common and affect the urethra and bladder. Upper urinary tract infections affect the kidneys and can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as urosepsis.
UTIs can also be broken up into four smaller categories:
Lower UTI symptoms to look out for include:
Upper UTI symptoms include:
While women are 8 times more likely to contract a UTI, men can get them too. You can read this article to learn more about male UTIs.
Urinary tract infections are caused by microorganisms, usually a bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli). This bacteria naturally occurs around the vagina and anus.
There are many things that can increase your chances of a UTI:
Antibiotics are the typical treatment for a UTI. The type of antibiotic that your doctor prescribes will depend on what type of infection you have, the bacteria causing it, and how many UTIs you’ve had in the past.
The symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection typically begin to clear up within just 24 hours of taking antibiotics, though more serious infections can take two weeks or even longer to go away. For most women, 3 days will be sufficient, while men typically need between 7-14 days, or even longer.
It’s best to consult your doctor to determine how long you should be taking your antibiotics.
Even if all the symptoms of a UTI have cleared up, it’s important that you complete the full course of antibiotics to prevent recurrent UTI infections or antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
While there’s no foolproof method of preventing a UTI, there are many things you can do to reduce your chances of infection:
There are many reasons why you might experience recurrent UTIs. Some people are just genetically predisposed to infections, while others may be unintentionally increasing their risks:
Once you start taking antibiotics, your UTI symptoms should begin to ease fairly quickly. However, there are some things you can do to relieve the symptoms of UTI in the short-term:
Sex is not recommended while suffering from a UTI. Sex can irritate the sensitive tissue in your urinary tract and is likely to be too painful to enjoy. It can also introduce new bacteria while your body is already weakened by an existing infection.
The infection itself is not contagious, however, the bacteria that causes a UTI can be spread between people, usually during sexual intercourse.
While antibiotics are the most effective treatment for UTIs, the body can resolve some minor, uncomplicated UTIs on its own. Be aware that an untreated UTI may develop into a more serious condition and spread to other parts of the urinary tract. It’s best to consult with a doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms.
UTIs can cause uncomfortable symptoms that may make it difficult to sleep. Here are some things you can do to relieve UTI pain for a better night’s sleep:
During pregnancy, hormonal changes, the expansion of your uterus, and the growing challenge of keeping your perineal area clean can put you at higher risk of a UTI.
While pregnant women are less likely to contract a bladder infection, UTIs during pregnancy are more likely to spread to the kidneys, a far more serious condition. UTIs during pregnancy can also cause high blood pressure and premature delivery, so it’s important to consult with your doctor if you begin to show signs of a UTI while pregnant.