Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary Tract Infection or UTI is also known as cystitis and refers to a bacterial infection of any part of the lower urinary tract. More prevalent among women, UTI's can occur at any point from childhood to adulthood. One of the most common health complaints, Urinary Tract Infections also have a tendency to recur over time. The bacterium responsible for a large percentage of UTI's is the Escherichia coli. The bacteria are found in the digestive system and around the rectum. Certain factors can cause the bacteria to enter the urinary tract and infect the system.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections (UTI) do not always cause visible signs and symptoms, but in most cases you would notice some of the following:
- A frequent urge to urinate but reduced urine flow
- Pain and burning whilst urinating
- Increase in nocturnal urination
- Lower back pain
- Cloudy urine with a foul odor
- Blood in the urine
- Fever, Nausea, and chills are common if the infection has reached the kidneys
Urinary infections are usually non threatening if treated promptly, but in some cases they are a cause for concern and medical attention should be sought immediately:
- If the infection is accompanied with fever, nausea and vomiting or if there is intense pain towards one side of the back beneath the ribs.
- If you suffer from diabetes, kidney disease or have a weak immune function.
- If the infection occurs during pregnancy.
- If you are over the age of 65.
In children the symptoms of a urinary infection may not be very obvious and could include:
- Fever is a common symptom and may be the only symptom in infants.
- Children will usually become irritable and also show a loss of appetite.
- UTIs in children are also likely to impede and reduce weight gain and physical development.
- Urine will have a foul odor.
- Vomiting and diarrhea may also be observed and it's important to protect against dehydration.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
To understand the cause of a UTI, you have to first understand the structure of the female urinary tract. While both the urinary tracts of men and women share similarities, the length of the female urethra is distinctly shorter - 1.5 inches in length as compared to 8 inches in men. This short distance of the urethra increases the risk of infection significantly. Other causes of urinary tract infections include:
- Sexual Activity: Though not a sexually transmitted infection, UTI's are more likely to occur within 24 hours of sexual intercourse. Women who are celibate rarely suffer from UTI's. Factors such as intense or frequent sex, first time sex or specific sexual positions may increase the risk of developing a UTI.
- Contraception: Certain types of contraception such as the diaphragm or spermicide can increase the risk of UTIs.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can lower a woman's immunity and make her more susceptible to infections. Pregnant women diagnosed with UTI's should be monitored carefully to prevent the infection developing into a kidney infection.
- Menopause: Menopausal women are at the highest risk for UTI's. The lowered levels of estrogen can affect immunity and cause a thinning of the walls of the urinary tract that can lead to an infection.
- Enlargement of the prostate gland in men can lead to UTI's in men.
- Uncircumcised boys and men are also prone to UTI's.
- Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) is one of the main causes of UTI's in children.
Other factors that can increase a person's risk for UTI's include:
- Certain antibiotics
- The use of catheters
- Kidney problems
- Neurogenic bladder
- Sickle cell anemia
- Low or compromised immunity
- Abnormalities of the urinary tract
Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
The treatment of a UTI depends on where the infection is located and the severity of the symptoms. The cause of the infection is also taken into consideration before any treatment is prescribed. In most cases, prompt treatment can resolve the condition in a few days time. If the case is more severe or is a recurring infection, stronger medication or more aggressive forms of treatment may be necessary. Low dosages of antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the UTI. For recurring infections, antibiotics may need to be taken for longer periods of time. Always take the medications prescribed for the recommended duration of time or you risk increasing your chances of a recurring infection in the future.
If symptoms do not reduce in a few days after treatment or worsen, it is important to consult with your doctor at the earliest. UTIs when left untreated can escalate quickly and cause kidney damage and failure.
If the symptoms are mild or the infection is in its early stages, self treatment at home is possible. In cases of recurrent infections as well, some individuals prefer to rely on alternative remedies or a combination of alternative and conventional treatment because of the possible side effects from prolonged antibiotic usage. Exercise caution and always consult with your doctor before stopping any treatment or if trying out any natural remedies. Some commonly used home remedies include:
- Cranberry Juice: Cranberry juice is one of the most popular and widely touted of all natural remedies for health care. Most natural remedies should be greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism, but in the case of cranberry juice claims of its efficacy have been supported by several studies. Drinking cranberry juice helps flush out the bacteria present in the urinary tract that may be causing the infection. If you find cranberry juice too sweet or overpowering in taste you can dilute it with apple juice or a little water to make it palatable. While fresh cranberry juice is the most effective, bottled cranberry juice that is low in sugar and preservatives is the next best option. A regular intake of cranberry juice can be particularly helpful for women who suffer from recurrent infections as studies clearly indicate that it lowers the frequency of recurrences.
- Baking Soda: Drink a glass of water with a half-teaspoon of baking soda at the first sign of a UTI. Sodium bicarbonate helps balance out the pH levels in your body and reduces the acidity of your urine. While this remedy is theoretically effective, studies on its efficacy are inconclusive.
- Apart from cranberries, other home remedies for UTI include berries such as blueberries that are rich in antioxidants. Blueberries are thought to help fight off infection and prevent the buildup of bacteria in the urinary tract. Increase your intake of blueberries by eating them fresh or consuming them as a juice or smoothie.
- It may also be a good idea to add some pineapple to your diet as bromelain found in pineapple is said to help prevent urinary infections.
Diet for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
The best way to get rid of a UTI is to boost your fluid intake. This is best done by increasing your consumption of water and by increasing plenty of fruits or vegetables that have a high water content in your diet. A diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables can also help build immunity. Certain juices such as cranberry juice can help get rid of the bacteria that cause common urinary tract infections. Another way to reduce symptoms and prevent the recurrence of UTIs is to increase your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps prevent bacterial infections, improves immunity and balances out acidity levels in the bladder and urinary tract. Other foods that increase the alkaline levels in urine include milk, fresh fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in processed and fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine and spice can also increase your risk of an infection. Avoid tobacco, carbonated beverages, and products made with refined flour and sugar as these products can lower the bodys capacity to fight an infection. Recent reports also suggest that artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame may aggravate bladder and kidney infections. Avoid such sweeteners if you are prone to infections or are currently suffering from a UTI.
Suggestions for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- If symptoms such as lower back pain or burning while urinating are too uncomfortable, try placing a heated pad on the lower abdominal area to provide some relief.
- Try and urinate at frequent intervals during the day. Doctors recommend urinating every four hours during the day to prevent pressure developing in the bladder and increasing your risk of developing a UTI.
- Wipe yourself from front to back after a visiting the toilet to prevent the infection from spreading.
- Always empty your bladder before sexual intercourse as a full bladder can put undue pressure on the urinary tract and may cause an infection. Showering or washing the genital area before sex can also help reduce the spread of infections.
- Urinate immediately after sexual intercourse as this can also help reduce the risk of infection.
- If you use a diaphragm, you may need to get it refitted or change your form of contraception.
- Avoid vaginal douches, feminine hygiene sprays and scented soaps and lotions as these could aggravate the symptoms.
While these home remedies can help you reduce an infection if you already have one or even prevent a recurring infection, it is equally important to check with your doctor and determine the cause of the infection before any self-treatment. If the UTI lasts for more than two days at a time, your doctor should be informed as well. In such cases, you may need to consult with a specialist or be prescribed a specific stronger course of medication.
- Goldman RD. Cranberry juice for urinary tract infection in children. Can Fam Physician. 2012 Apr;58(4):398-401. PubMed PMID: 22499815; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3325451.
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37 Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) remedies suggested by our users
cold water remedy
suggested by Mrs.Pankaj on Monday, April 28, 2008
Bottle gourd for acidic urine
suggested by [unspecified] on Monday, February 18, 2008
suggested by Lissa on Monday, December 31, 2007
suggested by Lydia on Thursday, September 27, 2007
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