urinary tract infection

urinary tract infection drawing

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a general term for a bacterial infection that develops in the urinary tract. Urine is usually sterile and free of bacteria or viruses. But, if bacteria enter the urethra, an infection can occur. An infection in the urethra is called urethritis.

If the infection reaches the bladder it's called cystitis or a bladder infection. This is the most common type of urinary tract infection.

If left untreated, the infection can reach the kidneys. A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) can be dangerous, but if treated quickly, there is usually no permanent damage.

Urinary tract infections are most commonly caused by stool bacteria called Escherichia coli (E.coli). This is very common in women because of the close proximity of the opening of the urethra to the anus. In most cases, the infections are easily treatable, but some women are more prone to reoccurring UTIs.

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Aging increases the risk for Urinary Tract Infections in women

  • One of the effects of menopause is shortening of the urethra, which gives the body's defenses less time to fight bacteria before it reaches the bladder.
  • The bladder loses its elasticity, making it more difficult to empty it out. This can create a breeding ground for bacteria to multiply.
  • The walls of the urinary tract become thinner and less resistant to bacteria.
  • The immune system weakens and women find themselves more susceptible to all kinds of infections.

Bladder infection symptoms

  • Frequent and urgent need to urinate, even immediately after urinating
  • Painful, burning feeling when urinating (the medical term is dysuria)
  • Some women have a low fever
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Pressure or cramping in the lower pelvic area

If you suspect that you have an infection, go to your doctor and have your urine tested. It's a quick simple procedure and results are usually given on the spot or within a few hours. If you suffer from urinary tract infections often, additional tests might be needed.


Kidney infection symptoms

Kidney infections, if not treated promptly are dangerous and can lead to blood poisoning, damaged kidneys and even death.

If you have any of the following symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself:

  • Back pain, just above the waist or side pain below the ribs
  • High temperature
  • Blood in urine
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion may occur


Bladder infection treatment

The most common treatment for UTI is antibiotics. For treatment of cystitis, antibiotics are usually prescribed for 3 days and for kidney infection treatment is usually 7 to 14 days. In some cases, painkillers may also be prescribed.

Although excellent results can be obtained with antibiotics, overuse of has caused bacteria to build a resistance to them in many cases, resulting in a reoccurring UTI infections for many women.


Alternative treatments for UTI

There are treatments that work very effectively and are ultimately healthier for the body. For those women for whom antibiotics have not met their need or for those women who do not want to use antibiotics, the methods below could provide relief.

Whatever treatment you decide to use, visit your doctor first for tests and discuss possible treatments.

D-Mannose: D-Mannose is a simple sugar similar to glucose. It is found in many fruits including oranges, cranberries and blueberries and is also produced in the body. When a concentrated amount is ingested it prevents bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract, so it is washed away by urine. D-mannose has no side effects and can be used safely by diabetics.

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For additional information on D-Mannose, read this excellent article by Dr. Mercola:

D-Mannose for UTI Prevention Validated in a Clinical Trial

Cranberry juice: Unsweetened 100% cranberry juice or cranberry extract tablets have been found to be effective in fighting urinary tract infections for many women. While it was once thought that the acidifying effect on the urine destroyed bacteria, recent research has shown that cranberries contain a low level of D-mannose and other compounds that reduce the ability of bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract, and are flushed away by urine. In addition, cranberries strengthen the immune system, which helps the body fight off infection.


First aid relief for urinary tract infection

The pain caused by UTI can be unbearable. Below are some useful suggestions that can help you get immediate relief:

  • At the first sign of pain, start drinking, flush out your bladder. Mix in a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into a pint (2 cups) of water. It neutralizes the acid in the urine and will stop the burning. IMPORTANT: Do not take baking soda if you are on a sodium restricted diet. When you finish the 2 cups continue drinking plain water. Drink a full glass of water every 20 minutes. This will give you relief for a few hours. Do not drink juices of any kind or caffeinated beverages, as they create an acidic urine condition, which burns even more. Repeat the baking powder about once an hour. Do this for about 3-4 hours. If you catch it early, you might be able to flush out the bacteria completely. In any case you should have your urine tested for bacteria.
  • Place a heating pad/hot water bottle on your lower abdomen and urethra. It helps relieve the pressure in the bladder.
  • Take a mild over the counter pain reliever
  • Lay down with your feet up and try to relax
  • Urinate frequently to flush the bacteria out of your urethra, bladder, or kidneys
  • Go to your doctor and have your urine tested


How to prevent bladder and kidney infections

  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day
  • Urinate when you have the urge, don't hold it in
  • Prior to sex drink a glass of water
  • Urinate before and after sex
  • Wipe from front to back
  • Use unscented toilet paper and absorbent pads
  • Keep genital area clean
  • Avoid feminine hygiene sprays and douches
  • Take showers instead of baths


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