A urinary tract infection (UTI) is clinically diagnosed via lab testing of a urine sample. Most women who’ve had a UTI don’t need any lab to tell them whether they have one or not because the progressive UTI symptoms are pretty clear indications of infection.
That said, UTI’s can be relatively asymptomatic, especially in children or seniors. It’s always best to contact your physician or OB/GYN to figure out your next steps.
Recognizing the Symptoms of a UTI
Sometimes UTIs clear up on their own, aided by the help of lots of water to flush out the abundant bacteria and your body’s active immune system. If things don’t ease up or clear out, your physician will collect a urine sample for analysis. If you have a UTI, s/he’ll prescribe an antibiotic specific to fighting the strain causing your infection.
Most common symptoms of a bladder or urinary tract infection
The most common symptoms of a UTI are:
Pain or burning during or right after urinating
At first, this might seem pretty mild. It may give you pause, “Hmmmm. Was that a bit of a sting?” As the infection progresses, the pain or discomfort is unavoidable.
Frequent urges to go
Because the bladder and urethra are irritated and inflamed, you’ll feel like you need to go to the bathroom more frequently than normal. It’s particularly challenging when you’ve reached the “pain and discomfort phase” because it means pain/burning more often. You may even experience UTI-related incontinence, causing leaking. Change your underwear ASAP if you do leak to prevent more bacteria or fungi from building up around the urethra.
Even thought you may dread the discomfort of going to the bathroom, resist the urge to hold it. Instead, keep drinking plenty of fluids to fill the bladder and help flush the bacteria out, making it easier for your body’s probiotics to fight the offenders.
Foul smelling urine that may be cloudy or even bloody
You may notice your urine smells stronger or more foul than usual, and that there is a cloudy look to it. That’s the bacteria and white blood cells at work. UTIs can also cause blood in the urine because of the irritated tissues inside.
Pain or pressure in your bladder, pelvis, and lower back
Just like PMS causes cramping and tenderness, due to escalated pelvic inflammation, UTIs can have a similar effect.
Fever, chills, or shakiness
As with any infection, bladder infections can cause fever, chills, or a shaky sensation as your immune system works overtime to heal you. Your stomach may also feel a little upset.
SENIORS TAKE NOTE: Disorientation, memory loss, hallucinations
Seniors are the most likely population to have a UTI with little to no symptoms, often caused by dehydration and weakened immune systems. Instead of the telltale physical symptoms, UTIs in seniors can cause dementia-like symptoms, including confusion, memory loss, agitation and even delusions/hallucinations. Click Here to read more about the connection.
What to Do if You Suspect UTI
Many websites advocate a watch and wait approach to UTI’s, but we don’t usually recommend it. Always contact your OB/GYN first and see what his/her recommendation is.
Watch and wait for a few days
Sometimes, based on your health history and symptoms, you may be advised to watch/wait while:
- Drinking extra fluids
- Taking an OTC pain reliever
- Supplementation (some studies show increase vitamin C with bioflavonoids or cranberry supplements can support urinary tract health)
- Get plenty of rest and eat nourishing foods to support overall health and immune system function
Submit a urine sample
Many physicians will order an immediate urine sample so you can go straight to the lab and submit it. Within 24-hours or less, you’ll have an answer and the physician will discuss treatment from there.
Take a course of specific antibiotics
Depending on which bacteria is present, your physician may prescribe antibiotics. Never take old antibiotics that are laying around. They may not be the correct ones to fight the bacterial/fungal infection you have, in which case they wipe out all of your healthy bacteria rather than fighting the infection.
Tips for Avoiding Future UTIs
More than 50% of all women will have a UTI at some point in their life, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk:
- Always wipe from front to back to avoid e coli from your rectum from getting into the urethra
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day
- Wear 100% cotton underwear and change them daily
- Speak to your doctor if you use a diaphragm, spermicide and/or unlubricated condoms as all are known to increase the risk of UTIs
- Always go pee after having sex to flush out foreign bacteria/fungus/etc.
- Opt for showers over a bath OR make sure to shower and wash your body first before soaking in the tub
- Do not use scented toilet paper or feminine hygiene products since they can irritate the urethra
- Speak to your doctor about probiotics and other supplements that can support healthy immune function in the urinary tract
Suspect you have a UTI? Give us a call at Overlake OB/GYN, (425) 454-3366, to schedule a consultation or to set up a urine specimen order at our lab.