Say goodbye to UTIs

January 10, 2020

Did you know that over 50 percent of women will contract a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point during their lifetime? In fact, it is the cause of over 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers every year. A UTI is an umbrella term for any infections inside of your urinary system, commonly affecting organs such as your kidneys, bladder and urethra. Although some men and many women can contract this during their life, some do not visit a doctor out of confusion and fear. However, delaying a doctor’s visit can lead to dangerous complications, especially if it contaminates and spreads to vital organs such as the kidneys. 

To first identify whether you have a UTI or not, it is important to become familiar with some of its common signs and symptoms. Each type of infection presents with their own unique set of symptoms, making it easy to distinguish between them. 

Cystitis, an infection in the bladder, can present with symptoms such as bloody urine and frequent urination. An infection of the urethra, urethritis, can present with symptoms such as a burning sensation during urination and a cloudy discharge. Neither cystitis nor urethritis are too serious. 

Pyelonephritis, a kidney infection, on the other hand is very serious, and can even be fatal. If the kidneys are not effective, blood cannot be filtered and waste products can build up in your bloodstream. This can lead to more serious symptoms such as chills, nausea, vomiting and a high fever. 

No matter what kind of UTI you have, it is recommended that you go to the doctor if you suspect that you have one. If it is swiftly treated, it will often not advance towards more serious complications. However, if not treated quickly and effectively, the infection can travel towards the kidneys and other organs of the body, causing serious complications. 

For example, if a woman is pregnant and has an untreated UTI, the child may be born premature or have a low birth weight. Moreover, permanent kidney damage can occur, which would hinder your body’s ability to filter its own blood. If your kidneys are damaged enough to the point where they do not effectively filter your blood, then you will either need a kidney transplant or dialysis. Dialysis is a treatment that requires frequent visits to the doctor to manually filter out your blood. 

The most disastrous and lethal of these complications, however, is sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that results from a serious infection in any part of your body. It can affect multiple organs and can lead to a condition known as shock, which is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow.

Given the harsh consequences of an untreated UTI, it is essential to visit the doctor if you ever suspect that you have one. However, it is better to simply prevent one in the first place. 

The two general rules of thumb for prevention is to block bacteria from entering your body in the first place and, if they do, to expel them before they have a chance to cause complications. One way to routinely clean out the urethra is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids. This causes routine urination, and hence, routinely flushes out any stray bacteria. 

Another method to prevent UTI’s is to urinate shortly after intercourse. This flushes out bacteria that could have entered the urethra during coitus. 

Clearly, a UTI ranges widely in how it presents. From a small one that never causes any noticeable symptoms to possible death from sepsis, a UTI is extremely unpredictable. It is important to visit a doctor if you suspect that you have contracted one so that they can prescribe antibiotics and slow the progression of the contamination. Remember, if you have any doubts or concerns about your body, it never hurts to visit the doctor!

(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

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