Urine infections account for nearly 8 million doctor visits worldwide on an annual basis. It is now proven that nearly 40% of all women will experience a UTI at least once in their entire lifetime. It is essential to not just prevent but also treat urine infections as soon as they are diagnosed, using the right means. Failure to do so can cause various life threatening kidney infections. In this guide we will study common kidney infections and ways of treating and preventing UTIs.
But first, let us understand why urine infections occur.
How are UTIs caused? What kidney infections can they give rise to?
A UTI is primarily caused due to bacterial presence in urine. Normal urine is quite acidic and it kills most bacteria present in it. In some cases however, (mainly due to weakened immune system), the bacteria does not die but it travels to the bladder. A relatively milder form of urine infection is cystitis which does not cause any permanent harm or death but can make the sufferer’s life miserable through pain and other symptoms. Pylonephritis is a relatively more serious form of kidney infections which is caused when the bacteria travel via the urinary tract from the bladder into the kidneys. Patients having this type of kidney infection tend to sometimes develop septicaemia which occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream. This is a serious and a life threatening infection.
Typical symptoms of urine infection
- The urge to urinate frequently but producing only a few drops each time
- Pain, burning and other discomfort upon urination
- Presence of blood in urine
- Abdominal pain/cramps
Symptoms of urine infection that may be kidney infections
- High fever
- Back ache and stomach ache
Types of urine infections
Urologists broadly categorize urine infections as uncomplicated and complicated. The latter generally occur in boys and men (or in patients having abnormal urinary tracts) and these infections do not respond to antibiotics. Doctors warn treating complicated urine infections as soon as they occur, as they are more likely to develop into serious or fatal kidney infections. The other category (uncomplicated urine infections) mainly occurs in healthy individuals having normal urinary tracts.
How to treat urine infections?
If you suspect urine infections, visit your primary care physician as soon as possible. If needed, s/he might refer you to an urologist. A urine culture can help show for sure if you have UTI. If not, other symptoms will be considered to suggest further treatment.
To treat uncomplicated urine infections, your doctor will put you on a course of antibiotics. Usually a three day course of drugs is sufficient to treat urine infections. Some doctors give a single dose, while others might divide it into 3 or 4 doses per day. It may happen that a few doses will help get rid of all symptoms like burning, itching etc. But it is vital that you complete the full course of antibiotics even if you do. This will prevent complications and also stop urine infection developing into complicated kidney infections. If your symptoms do not disappear following the full antibiotic course, you might be suffering from a complicated urine infection. You might probably require a course of intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
Some elderly patients especially those on catheters tend to get UTIs every few months. For these, urologists often prescribe a nightly mild antibiotic pill, typically for a period of 6 months. This can prevent urine infections and harder to treat kidney infections as well.
Prevent kidney infections by preventing UTIs
- Regularly and completely flush out the bladder. Restriction of urination is a surefire way of developing UTIs. Is there an anatomical problem causing this? Is there a neurological issue (multiple sclerosis, spina bifida) that may be preventing the patient from emptying the bladder completely? Some other conditions like urinary stones (Calculi) can also block urine from being emptied out. It is especially important that women urinate immediately after sexual intercourse.
- Drink tons of water.
- Wipe carefully after having bowel movement. This includes wiping front to back.
- Do not use harsh feminine douches, gels, perfumes, sprays in the genital area etc.
These precautions and quick remedial actions taken to treat urine infections can help prevent kidney infections.