What Is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection, commonly shortened to UTI, is an infection caused by bacteria finding their way into the urinary tract through the urethra. While many times your body can remove these bacteria on its own, it doesn’t always work that way. When bacteria don’t get removed it grows and spreads and the result is an infection.

Is A UTI the Same Thing as A Bladder Infection?

Most people think that a UTI is a bladder infection, but that’s not exactly right. Here is an illustration of the urinary tract. A UTI can affect all or different parts of the urinary tract system; as shown below, the correct term for a bladder infection is “cystitis”.

  • Urethritis — an infection in the urethra
  • Cystitis — an infection in the bladder
  • Ureteritis — an infection of the ureter tubes
  • Kidney infection — an infection affecting the kidneys
  • Pyelonephritis — when both the kidneys and ureters are infected

What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?

The most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection are frequent urination, an urgency to urinate, burning, and back and side pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms it is likely that you have a UTI.

A UTI symptom is kidney and back pain

Older individuals are also susceptible to UTIs, but may not exhibit the typical symptoms because their weakened systems no longer send out signals or they may not be able to communicate their discomfort.  So, the undiagnosed infection may move up into their kidneys and cause “delirium”, a condition that is often confused for early onset of dementia.   The symptoms of delirium are confusion, agitation, or an inability to communicate clearly.  It comes on very suddenly, literally within hours, which is very different from dementia which occurs gradually.

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What is the Most Common Cause of a UTI?

The most common cause of a UTI is the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is typically found in the colon.  These bacteria have “fimbrae”, or fingers, which allow them to adhere to the bladder lining and colonize the surface, making them more resistant to antibiotics.

What Happens If I Don’t Treat My UTI?

A urinary tract infection, if left untreated can spread to other parts of the urinary tract, and you will need to be treated by a doctor if this happens. UTIs should be treated immediately, otherwise, they can result in kidney damage and scarring, and can even lead to blood infections and death in extremely severe cases.

Why Are UTIs More Common in Women?

Urinary tract infections are more common in women because of the female anatomy.  A women’s shorter urethra makes a quicker pathway for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.

Are Some Women More at Risk for UTIs?

Some women can’t seem to catch a break; it seems that they are always battling a urinary tract infection. Some of the common reasons that may put you at a higher risk for a UTI include:

  • Dehydration – not producing enough urine to flush the bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Taking the Wrong Antibiotic – Not all UTIs are caused by E Coli bacteria, there are several other types of bacteria that can cause an infection. And for each type of bacteria, there are specific antibiotics that will work.
  • Antibiotic Resistance –Over-prescribing of popular antibiotics has allowed the bacteria to learn how to defend itself against the medication; they hide, mutate, and start growing again a few weeks or months after the antibiotic treatment.
  • Biofilms – These tiny “sacs” surround the bacteria after burrowing into the lining of the bladder making it difficult to diagnose the presence of biofilms.
  • ESBLs – The two most common types of bacteria are part of a family of germs known as Enterobacteriaceae and produce enzymes which break down and destroy commonly used antibiotics, including penicillin and cephalosporins, making these drugs ineffective for treating infections
  • Pregnancy – The growing fetus can put pressure on the bladder and urinary tract. This traps bacteria or causes urine to leak.
  • Sexual Activity – Intercourse can cause the bacteria in the vagina and rectum to get into the urinary tract.
  • Menopause – Lower levels of estrogen, thinning of vaginal tissue, pelvic organ prolapses, incontinence, and trouble completely emptying the bladder are all risk factors for UTIs.
  • Diabetes – Frequent urination and high blood sugar levels provide a favorable growth environment for bacteria.
  • Kidney Stones & Enlarged Prostate Glands – These are common ways the urinary tract is blocked and disturbs the flow of urine and traps the bacteria.
  • Diaphragms – When used, spermicides kill the protective bacteria and changes the pH balance in the vagina.  This can increase the growth of the kinds of bacteria that cause UTIs.
  • Catheters – Promote colonization of inoculating organisms into the bladder by providing a surface for bacterial adhesion and causing mucosal irritation.

Can Men Get UTIs?

Yes. While urinary tract infections are more common in women, men can also suffer from them. Urinary stones, enlarged prostate, or the use of a catheter can obstruct the flow of urine and can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract and cause a UTI. UTIs are more common in men over the age of 50.

Why Are UTIs More Common in Women?

Urinary tract infections are more common in women because of the female anatomy.  A women’s shorter urethra makes a quicker pathway for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.

Can My Dog or Cat Get a UTI?

Yes, your pets can also suffer from urinary tract infections. UTIs are most common in female dogs and cats, but still happen with fair frequency in male dogs and cats.  Cats over 10 years old are at highest risk for developing UTIs.  It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of a UTI in case your pet comes down with this debilitating infection. These include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urinating inside
  • Crying, howling, or straining while urinating
  • Licking the genital area more often than usual
  • Blood in their urination (this can be easier to see if your pet goes inside)
  • A fever

Can Having Sex Cause a UTI?

Urinary tract infections are commonly caused by sex because it introduces bacteria to the urethra. Frequent intercourse can lead to the development of a UTI.

Is a UTI a sexually transmitted infection?

A urinary tract infection is not a sexually transmitted infection. In fact, you don’t even have to be sexually active to develop a UTI, it’s just one way that bacteria can be introduced. A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract caused by bacteria traveling up the urethra but is in no way considered a sexually transmitted infection.

How Can I Prevent a UTI?

While urinary tract infections are not completely preventable, there are certain actions you can take to help prevent one. Some of these steps include:

  • Drink more water – Staying hydrated will help your system flush bacteria from the urinary tract
  • Don’t hold it – urinate when you feel the need.
  • Don’t use douches or feminine hygiene sprays. They can irritate the urethra.
  • Wipe front to back to prevent spreading bacteria from the anus or vagina into the urethra.
  • Drink more water – Staying hydrated will help your system flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Empty your bladder after sex.
  • Don’t use spermicides.
  • Use tampons rather than pads during menstrual periods.
  • Take showers rather than baths.

Do Cranberry Products Help with a UTI?

Many people have been led to believe that cranberry capsules and/or juice will prevent and cure urinary tract infections.  Hundreds of scientific and medical studies have been conducted over the past 10 years to assess the efficacy of cranberry, and none has been able to support the claim that cranberry products eliminate bacteria from the urinary tract, or that they prevent new bacteria from entering the system.

There are new claims that a certain component in cranberries known as PACs (proanthocyanidins) prevents the adhesion of E-Coli bacteria to the bladder walls.  However, the amount of PAC’s present in each dose of the cranberry supplement is insufficient to deal with a well-developed bacterial infection.

Should I Take Antibiotics for My UTI?

When you go to a doctor for a urinary tract infection, they will no doubt prescribe antibiotics. And in most cases, the antibiotic will get rid of the UTI symptoms in a couple of days, if taken as prescribed.

However, you may start to feel the same symptoms again a few weeks later.  Why?  Because the bacteria have learned to out-smart the antibiotics; they literally hide and mutate in your system. This is known as “antibiotics resistance”, which has been caused by the over-prescribing of antibiotics for the past few decades.

The medical community is sending out alarm bells that this is the next health crisis which we will face; patients with simple infections are now becoming hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses.  Watch this segment from 60 minutes to learn more.

 If Antibiotics Are Becoming Less Effective, What Can I Take to Get Rid of The Infection?

There is a natural supplement known as D-Mannose which has been recommended by doctors for years when antibiotics no longer work to eliminate a UTI.  Unlike cranberries, D-Mannose has been proven to quickly and effectively flush E-Coli bacteria from the bladder.  Taken regularly, it coats the lining of the bladder to protect it from allowing new bacteria to take hold.