Urinary tract infection - adults
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Using the bathroom is usually a no-brainer. You go, you flush, you wash. But sometimes, you can have a condition that makes it painful or difficult to go. If you're feeling pain or burning when you urinate, or you feel like you need to go all the time, the problem could be a urinary tract infection.
Most often, you get a urinary tract infections when bacteria make their way into your bladder, kidneys, ureters, those tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, or the urethra, the tube that carries urine to the outside of your body.
Unfortunately for women, they're more likely to get a urinary tract infection than men because they have a much shorter urethra. Bacteria can more easily slip into a woman's body after they have sex or use the bathroom. Certain conditions can also increase your risk of a urinary tract infection, including diabetes, pregnancy, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate in men, as well as urinary tract surgery.
You can often tell you may have a urinary tract infection by the pain and burning whenever you urinate, and the constant urge to go. Your urine may look cloudy or bloody, and it might give off a bad smell. Your doctor can diagnose an infection by taking a urine sample and checking for bacteria. Occasionally different scans, including a CT and kidney scan, may be done to rule out other urinary problems.
If you do have a urinary tract infection, you'll probably be prescribed antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria. Also drink a lot of water and other fluids to help flush out the bacteria.
Usually, antibiotics can knock out a urinary tract infection in a day or two. But like the unwelcome visitors they are, sometimes these infections keep coming back. You may need to keep taking antibiotics for a longer period of time.
There are ways to help prevent getting urinary tract infections, like drinking a lot of fluids, perhaps including cranberry juice. Probiotics, beneficial bacteria may also help prevent urinary tract infections. Women should be careful about their hygiene. Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom, urinate before and after sexual activity, and keep your genital area clean. If you use a diaphragm with spermicide, consider changing contraceptives. For post menopausal women, topical estrogen greatly reduces urinary tract infections.
Recurrent, uncomplicated urinary tract infections are very common in non pregnant, healthy young women. Thankfully, they are easy to treat and are unlikely to lead to other health problems.
- Last reviewed on 11/25/2011
- Alan Greene, MD, Author and Practicing Pediatrician; also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014