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Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: An Overview

June 29, 2016 | Mary South, MD, MHA

Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are a common and significant burden that can bring life to a halt with nagging symptoms, including pain with urination (dysuria), urinary frequency, hesitation or difficulty urinating, and sometimes blood in the urine (hematuria).  It’s not unusual for women to have two to three UTIs each year and recurrences are common when infections are not adequately treated the first time.

Also referred to as bladder infections, infectious cystitis and lower urinary tract infections, UTIs can sometimes resolve on their own without treatment in about a week.  However, UTIs can be treated and prevented if they become a recurring problem.  In rare instances, left untreated, the bacteria causing the bladder infection can spread to the kidneys and result in serious health problems. If you are running a fever and experiencing back pain, this may be a sign that you have a kidney infection or upper urinary tract infection. Upper UTIs are evaluated and treated differently and should be addressed right away.

Why we get UTIs
Everyone gets bacteria in their bladders without consequence. The protective lining in the bladder prevents the bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, so when you urinate, the bacteria flushes out of your body. Any disruptions to this process can result in a UTI.

What can go wrong? Here is a list of common causes:

  • Not drinking enough water or drinking too much water, which can disrupt the normal pH balance of your urine.
  • Not urinating regularly.
  • Not emptying your bladder completely.
    Increased bacteria in the bladder due to other reasons like a change or irritation to the vaginal environment.
  • Menopause –a decrease in estrogen results in changes in the pH of the vagina and thinning and drying of the vaginal tissues allowing uropathogens (bacteria that cause bladder infections) to migrate more easily into the bladder.
  • Abnormalities in the urinary tract or urethra, such as bladder or kidney stones, or fistulas (an abnormal connection between the bladder and bowel).

UTIs are second most common infection in the body and can be easily treated once diagnosed. Managing a UTI can be as simple as changing your diet or resolved with a round of antibiotics. Whatever your UTI situation, it’s treatable and, in many cases, can even be prevented.

Click here to learn more about the prevention of and treatment of UTIs.

[1] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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