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Everything to know about the bladder infection

Urinary tract infections—or UTIs—can be painful and embarrassing. But, they are also very common. In fact, over three million cases are reported in the United States each year. 

If you suspect a UTI, also known as a bladder infection, here’s what you need to know about confirming your diagnosis and seeking treatment. 

Common UTI Symptoms
The telltale signs of a UTI include pain in the pelvis, abdomen and genitals as well as increased urge to urinate, painful urination or blood in the urine. 

Other possible symptoms include fatigue or fever, as well as discoloration or odor in the urine, trouble emptying the bladder or bladder spasms. 

Can a UTI Go Away on its own?

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s time to call your doctor. In order to confirm your suspicions, he or she will likely prescribe a urine culture that can confirm the presence of an infection.

“Unfortunately, a UTI is a condition that calls for medical oversight,” says Dr. Arreguin, OBGYN and director of women’s services for Geisinger Northeast. “Most require an antibiotic regimen to clear, which means you need a prescription.” However, once you are taking an antibiotic, the infection will usually clear quickly. 

Though it is possible for UTIs to resolve on their own, untreated infections can spread to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, which is potentially life-threatening. 

“If your symptoms begin to worsen or the pain travels to your abdomen, your infection may be spreading and requires immediate treatment,” notes Dr. Arreguin. 

Do Women get UTIs more than Men?
UTIs are most common in women, with nearly 40 percent experiencing the condition at least once in their lifetime. Women are four times more likely than men to come down with the infection.

“Women are more susceptible to UTIs due to differences in the anatomy,” explains Dr. Arreguin. “Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria are able to reach the urethra and can climb into the bladder.” 

In many cases, the bacteria spreads from the rear, which is in closer proximity to a woman’s urethra than a man’s, allowing bacteria to also come from sex.  

“Additionally, a man’s urethra is much longer so bacteria often aren’t able to access the bladder,” adds Dr. Arreguin. 

However, as men age they do become more prone to UTIs. 

Tips to Prevent a UTI
UTIs are very preventable with proper self-care and healthy habits. 

For example, going to the bathroom immediately -rather than holding it- prevents a build-up of urine in the bladder that can house bacteria. Avoiding tight underwear that can increase the transfer of bacteria will also lower your risk of developing a UTI.

“Drinking plenty of water will put you on a healthy bathroom cycle,” says Dr. Arreguin, “which is important, because urination flushes out the urethra and prevents the spread of bacteria.”

On the other hand, there are some health issues that increase your risk of UTIs and cannot be avoided. 

Menopausal and perimenopausal women experience a decrease in estrogen production, which thins the tissue and can make it harder to fully empty your bladder. Those with diabetes also experience a higher risk of UTIs, as bacteria thrive in bodies with a high sugar level. 

“If you have an increased risk of UTIs due to a medical condition or medication, it’s more important than ever to practice good hygiene and bathroom habits,” adds Dr. Arreguin.

Dr. Arreguin is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Geisinger Kistler Clinic in Wilkes-Barre. Geisinger’s women’s health specialists are here to care for you every step of the way. To schedule an appointment with a caring Geisinger OBGYN or another women’s health specialist, please call 800-275-6401 or visit Geisinger.org.
 
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