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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

It may be time to call your doctor’s office.

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a common bacterial infection in the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. 

How do you know when you have a UTI? Telltale symptoms include pain in your lower abdomen, urinating frequently, a burning sensation while urinating and cloudy urine. Other signs may include fatigue or fever, discoloration or odor in the urine and trouble emptying your bladder.

But it’s also possible to have a UTI with no symptoms at all.

What causes a urinary tract infection?

UTIs occur when bacteria enter your urinary tract and multiply. The bacteria responsible for most urinary tract infections is Escherichia coli (or E. coli), which is typically found in the gastrointestinal tract. Other factors can make you more likely to get a UTI, including:

  • Being female
  • Having sexual intercourse
  • Going through menopause
  • Having diabetes
  • Using urinary catheters
  • Having a weakened immune system

Can a UTI go away on its own?

If you have any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, call your doctor. To confirm your diagnosis, they’ll ask you to take a urine test.

“A UTI is a condition that calls for medical treatment,” says Erin Connolly, MD, family medicine doctor at Geisinger. “Most require a short course of antibiotics to treat. Once you start taking the antibiotic, the infection usually clears up in a few days. But be sure to finish the antibiotics, even if you start to feel better.”

While it’s possible for minor UTIs to resolve on their own, untreated infections can spread to other parts of your body, like the kidney. That has the potential to cause a more serious infection.

When to seek immediate treatment for a UTI

Contact your doctor right away if:
  • Your symptoms persist or worsen after a few days
  • You have severe pain or a high fever
  • You’re pregnant, have diabetes or another condition that compromises your immune system
  • You get UTIs frequently

Can you flush out a UTI with water?

While a course of antibiotics is the most effective treatment for UTIs, some home remedies can help you manage your symptoms while you recover. These include:

  • Drinking plenty of water to help flush the bacteria out of your bladder
  • Urinating when you feel the urge
  • Applying a heating pad to your lower abdomen to ease discomfort
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers

“Drinking water is highly recommended, but most UTIs won’t completely clear up without proper treatment,” adds Dr. Connolly.

Do women get UTIs more than men?

Women are more likely than men to get a UTI because their urethra is shorter. “It’s easier for the bacteria to travel up to your bladder,” adds Dr. Connolly.

UTIs are also common after menopause due to fluctuations in hormones. “Low estrogen levels cause changes in your vagina and urethra that may make you more susceptible to UTIs,” she says.

However, men can become more prone to UTIs as they age, especially if they have issues with their prostate.

Tips to prevent a UTI

UTIs are preventable with proper self-care and hygienic habits. Try:

  • Staying hydrated — and urinating when you feel the urge
  • Wiping from front to back after using the toilet
  • Urinating after sexual intercourse
  • Avoiding tight underwear or clothing
  • Minimizing the use of harsh or scented products in the genital area
  • Drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills, which may make it harder for bacteria to stick in your urinary tract

Remember: Home remedies aren’t a substitute for medical care. “Prompt medical care is crucial for managing UTIs and preventing more serious infections,” says Dr. Connolly.

Next steps:

Need care today? Find a walk-in clinic near you.
Do UTI symptoms change as you age?
What’s behind frequent urination at night?

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