Many people get a bladder infection and a urinary tract infection (also known as a UTI) confused, but they are actually the same thing.
This common infection happens when bacteria finds its way into the bladder. Typically, the E. coli bacteria is the cause behind the infection.
The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Because the anus is located so near to the urethra, E. coli is usually brought to the urinary tract from the bowels.
If you are suffering from a urinary tract infection, you may experience burning when you urinate. You might also need to use the restroom more often—sometimes with a sense of urgency.
So, what causes a UTI and what can you do to prevent one? We’re sharing everything you need to know to avoid the painful infection.
What Causes a UTI?
If you have had a UTI in the past, you’re at a higher risk of getting one before. Women are also more likely to get a UTI than men based on their female anatomy.
Your genetic background can also put you at a heightened risk. Other risk factors of a UTI include sexual intercourse, menopause, obesity and uncontrolled diabetes.
During intercourse, the area near the urethra is prone to bacteria; therefore, it’s important that you urinate immediately following intercourse to prevent fecal bacteria from being transmitted to the bladder.
When women go through menopause, they are also more likely to develop a UTI due to the lack of estrogen, which causes the vaginal tissue to lose elasticity. This allows bacteria to get into the vagina, often resulting in infection.
Women with a higher body mass index are also at a higher risk of a UTI because they typically have an increase in the folds of the labia, which can harbor bacteria.
Finally, anyone with uncontrolled diabetes typically struggle with a weakened immune system, causing them to be more susceptible to infection.
Can a UTI Go Away on Its Own?
While it is possible for a urinary tract infection to improve over time, an antibiotic is usually needed to get rid of the infection fully.
When left untreated, the infection from a UTI can actually move throughout the body—becoming very serious and even life threatening.
If you do not treat a bladder infection, it may turn into a kidney infection, which can then result in a more serious infection that’s moved into the blood stream. When this happens, sepsis can occur, causing you to become very ill.
If you have symptoms that typically accompany a urinary tract infection, but aren’t sure if that’s what you’re really dealing with, it’s best to see a doctor to be properly diagnosed.
He or she can prescribe you an antibiotic that will have you feeling better in a matter of days.
How Do You Get Rid of a UTI?
The best way to ensure your bladder infection goes away completely is by taking an antibiotic; however, there are a few other ways that you can help rid your body of the infection.
Drinking cranberry juice, eating or drinking vitamin C and taking a probiotic can all help you feel better if you’re dealing with a UTI.
If you still don’t feel better after you’ve finished your antibiotic, you should let your doctor know as your body may have established a resistance to the medication.
If this happens, a urine test may be needed to determine what medication might work better.
Misconceptions About UTIs
There are many misconceptions around urinary tract infections. For instance, many people believe that a UTI can develop when you hold your urine too long, which is not true.
Dehydration alone isn’t a cause of a bladder infection either; however, if you are suffering from a UTI, it’s smart to drink plenty of fluids so you stay hydrated.
Another common misconception is that using feminine products can lead to an infection. If you practice proper use and good hygiene, feminine products do not increase your risk of a UTI at all.
Wiping technique is also believed to cause a bladder infection. And, while it is a good idea to wipe from front to back instead of back to front for hygiene purposes, there is no proof that wiping can cause an infection.
The final misconception about UTIs is that they are contagious, which they are not.
How to Know When a UTI Turns into a Kidney Infection
The main job of the kidney, a part of the urinary tract, is to remove waste and take extra water from your blood.
When bacteria or viruses create problems in either one or both of your kidneys, it’s known as a kidney infection.
This can easily happen when bad bacteria or viruses travel up your uterus.
When a kidney infection is left untreated, it can become life threatening, so it’s important that you seek medical attention immediately if you notice blood or pus in your pee, pain in your lower back, upset stomach or vomiting, fever and chills or loss of appetite.
When Should I Go to the Doctor for a UTI?
Any time you’re suffering from symptoms that are similar to those of a urinary tract infection, you should visit a doctor to receive a proper diagnosis.
These symptoms include pain or burning when you urinate, blood in your urine, an urgent feeling to urinate, frequent urination in small amount, fever or chills, back pain, pain over the bladder or cloudy or dark urine.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a UTI and are currently being treated with an antibiotic, there is a good chance you won’t need to return to your doctor.
However, if do not feel your symptoms going away after you’ve completed your antibiotics, it’s a good idea to go back to the doctor.
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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.