Any infection occurring in the urinary system — the kidneys through the ureters, to the bladder and urethra — comes under the UTI name. Most infections affect the lower tract, the bladder and urethra. While most lower UTIs are more annoying than dangerous, they can be quite painful. Should the UTI spread to the kidneys, however, the infection becomes much more serious. UTIs are treated easily in the early stages, and there are things a woman can do to reduce the chances of infection in the first place.
Not all UTIs display symptoms. When they do, these most commonly include:
Each symptom may be a clue as to the type of UTI and the part of the urinary system that’s affected.
UTIs usually occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract. The urinary system usually keeps these bacteria in check, but the system is occasionally overwhelmed and bacteria multiply to a level sufficient to cause infection. Bacteria may arrive via the digestive system, given the proximity between urethra and anus, but other bacteria may be introduced during sexual intercourse. Some UTIs stem from complications of sexually-transmitted infections as well.
There are things you can do to ease symptoms as well as avoid being infected in the first place. Drinking lots of water dilutes your urine and keeps the urinary system flushed out and functioning.
When you do have a UTI, lots of water remains a good idea. As well, avoid alcohol, caffeine and citrus, which can irritate the bladder and increase burning sensations when you urinate. While the evidence is mixed, some studies indicate that cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs, especially in women who suffer recurrent infections. It does have some drug interactions, so check with the doctor before drinking cranberry juice, especially if you’re using blood thinners or other prescription medications.