Urine infections are common among children, teenagers and adults. Women are at a higher risk of getting a urine infection compared to men. Urine infection can affect the different parts of the urinary tract system; it can affect the urethra, bladder, the ureters and the kidneys. The most common kind of urine infection affects the lower part of the urinary tract, which are the bladder and urethra. However, when the infection reaches the upper part, especially when it reaches the kidneys, it will be a more serious and dangerous kind of urine infection, causing serious complications.
While a urine infection does not always present itself with signs and symptoms, sometimes it does and it may include a painful burning sensation when urinating, strong and persistent urges to urinate, frequent urination yet small amounts of urine passed, pelvic pain in women and rectal pain for men, urine that appears cloudy or even red or pinkish as a sign of blood present in the urine, and urine with a strong smell. For serious urine infections affecting the kidneys, an infected person may experience upper back and side pain, high fever, shaking or chills, nausea and vomiting.
Urinary infection occurs when the urinary tract system fails as the bacteria enter the urinary tract via entry to the urethra and begin their multiplication or colonization in the bladder. The type of bacteria called Escherichia coli is the most common cause of urine infections; this bacterium has been shown to have caused about 95% of all urine infection cases. Other bacteria like Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Proteus mirabilis are seldom causes of urine infection. Eschericia coli are a kind of bacteria that are normally present in the gastrointestinal tract. As mentioned earlier, women are at a higher risk of urine infection because of women’s anatomical features, where the anus is quite near the urethra and the small distance between the urethral opening and the bladder.
While some experience urine infection rarely, some are unfortunate enough to have recurrent urine infections. Recurrent urine infections may also be termed as chronic bladder infection. There is no exact frequency of recurrent urine infections. Based on research, a realistic characterization of recurrent urine infections is two proven episode of the infection in six months or three times in a year. Research indicates that 27%-50% of women experience recurrent urine infections of at least one recurrent infection in a year.
Causes and Risk factors
There are a number of factors that may cause recurrent urine infections. Genetic predisposition and diabetes are considered factors in acquiring recurrent urine infections. In women, possible causes and risk factors of having recurrent urine infections may also include the presence of kidney or bladder stones, bacteria that enters the urethra after sexual intercourse, other abnormalities of the urinary tract in the shape or in function such as neuropathic bladder or anatomical abnormalities, postmenopausal vaginitis and atrophic urethritis, altered levels of estrogen during menopause, some form of contraception like diaphragm or condoms coated with spermicides, incomplete emptying of the bladder as a dysfunctional urination, history of urinary tract surgery and an immunocompromised condition.
Men somewhat has similar predisposing factors to recurrent urine infections, these may also include an incomplete emptying of the bladder from an enlarged prostate or chronic indwelling catheter, a history of urinary tract surgery, an abnormality in the function of the urinary tract, anal intercourse and also an immunocompromised condition.
For children, predisposing factors may include having a condition that may lead to urinary statis, vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) accounting to 41% of the cases, including family history of VUR, renal calculi or obstructive uropathy; poor urine flow as in phimosis, constipation, sexual abuse, impaired renal function and impaired immune system.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of recurrent urine infections are similar to that of a urine infection which also include the painful and burning sensation during urination, the need to wake up to urinate at night, a more frequent and urgent need to urinate, urine appearing as cloudy and strong and foul smelling, and presence of blood in urine which appears red or pink. For the elderly people, signs and symptoms of recurrent urine infections may include incontinence, fever, confusion, anorexia and shock.
In treating recurrent urine infections, proper evaluation is needed and this may be done through a urine culture of the urine sample. It is recommended that a clean catch is to be done in obtaining a urine sample. Cytoscopy, the method of looking into the bladder with a scope may also be done. CT scan may be done or an ultrasound for children, to check for anomalies in the anatomical features of urinary tract.
Know that the approach in treating recurrent urine infections will vary as treatment options will entirely depend on the underlying cause of recurrent urine infections. Usually, antibiotics are given to treat recurrent urine infections. At the first sign of infection an antibiotic may be taken for three days, and longer for about 7 to 10 days in cases of re-infection. An antibiotic prophylaxis may also be considered for recurrent urine infections. If the recurrent infection is due to sexual intercourse, one dose of antibiotic taken less than 2 hours after intercourse may be instructed by the doctor. Urinating after every intercourse will also help in managing recurrent urine infections. If the recurrent urine infections are not due to sexual intercourse, antibiotic prophylaxis therapy may take months or years. The doctor will prescribe the proper dosage for the specific antibiotic treatment. A change in the type of antibiotic will be done if other antibiotics have failed in treating the condition.
If the recurrent urine infections are caused by a contraception method, then avoiding or stopping that certain method, such as the use of contraceptive creams, will help treat a recurrent urine infection. However, if the recurrent urinary infections are caused by the imbalance in estrogen levels, common among postmenopausal women, which characterized by the thinning of the outer urethra, an estrogen cream or other forms of vaginal estrogen may be prescribed by the doctor. Proper dose and use will be instructed and must be strictly followed for optimum results.
Lifestyle changes and Home remedies
These steps will help reduce the risk of recurrent urinary infections:
- Drinking lots of fluids most especially water; it will help flush out bacteria. Cranberry juice is believed to be helpful especially in women with recurrent urine infections. Cranberries are thought to have a substance that prevents the bacteria from sticking in the bladder wall, therefore lowering the risk of recurrent urine infections
- Urinating frequently as a result of drinking a lot of fluids may help prevent recurrent urinary infections
- Making it a habit to wipe from front to back after urination and bowel movement will help reduce the risk of recurrent urine infections