know your UTI

It’s an all too common scenario for more than 50 million women in the U.S. each year. You feel like you need to pass urine all day, but when you try, not much comes out. When you do urinate, it burns and smells bad, and looks cloudy, too. This frequent need to urinate lasts day and night for a couple of days, accompanied by a general feeling of pressure or tenderness in your lower belly.

Welcome to a UTI, or urinary tract infection.

“A UTI is an infection anywhere in the urinary tract,” says board certified OB/GYN Steven R. Berkman, M.D., FACOG, FACS. Parts of the urinary tract include the kidneys, ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, the bladder, and the urethra, a short tube that carries urine from the bladder out of your body.

What Causes UTIs?
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through activities of normal life like sexual intercourse or tampon use.  Women with diabetes or other immune suppressing health conditions have a harder time fighting infection, and a UTI can develop. Menopausal women experience a loss of estrogen, which can make UTIs more common.

What are the Signs of a UTI?

  • A burning sensation when you urinate.
  • Feeling like you need to urinate a lot, but not much actually comes out.
  • Leaking a little urine.
  • Pressure and tenderness in the lower belly.
  • Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy.

“If you experience these symptoms plus have lower back pain, feel shaky or have a fever, feel nauseous, or see blood in your urine, call your doctor immediately,” says Dr. Berkman. “You may have a kidney infection or other serious condition.”

How is a UTI treated?
A simple urine test can confirm your condition. UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics, and women feel better in a day or two. UTIs in pregnant women can cause premature labor. Also, UTIs in pregnant women are more likely to travel to the kidneys, so see your doctor right away. Recurrent UTIs can cause lasting kidney damage. “Make sure you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes,”says Dr. Berkman, “even if you are feeling better.”

How Can I Avoid UTIs?
“About 1 in 5 women who get UTIs will get another one,” says Dr. Berkman. “There are steps you can take to prevent a UTI, but if you still have symptoms, you should see your doctor.”

“UTIs can be painful,” says Dr. Berkman, “but they are manageable and with antibiotics we can generally avoid serious health risk. Listen to your body. There’s no need to live in pain and discomfort, so call your doctor when you think you have a UTI.”