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Female Urinary Tract Infection

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Description

  • The urinary tract can be infected from above (by bacteria entering the kidneys from the bloodstream and traveling downward) or from below (bacteria entering the urethra and traveling upward). Most often, infections begin in the urethra and move up the urinary tract to the kidneys. Since a woman's urethra is shorter than a man's, women are more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men or children. One woman in five develops a UTI during her lifetime. UTIs in men, while not as common, can be very serious when they do occur



    Causes

  • Bacteria cause most UTIs.
  • Most infections arise from one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli), which normally live in the colon. Chlamydia and mycoplasma may also cause UTIs in both women and men, but these infections tend to remain limited to the urethra and reproductive system. Unlike E. coli, chlamydia and mycoplasma may be sexually transmitted, and these infections require treatment of both partners.



    Symptoms

    The symptoms depend on how old the person is and the location of the UTI infection.
  • Pressure in the lower pelvis, burning, painful sensation while urinating
  • Frequent need to urinate (frequency), urge to urinate (urgency)
  • Need to urinate at night, cloudy, bloody, or abnormal-colored urine
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria), abnormal odor to the urine
  • Fever, chills, nausea or vomiting



    Diagnosis

  • Urinalysis test: The urine is examined for white and red blood cells and bacteria.
  • Bacterial culture and sensitivity test to see which drug best treats the bacteria



    Treatment

  • If you are a healthy adult woman who is not pregnant, or a man, a 3-day course of antibiotic pills will usually cure your UTI. Tell your doctor if you have symptoms such as back pain and fever (a fever over 101F could indicate that the infection has spread to your kidneys).
  • The drugs most often used to treat routine, uncomplicated UTIs are trimethoprim (Trimpex), trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim), amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Wymox), nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Furadantin), and ampicillin.
    Preventative steps that a woman can take to avoid a UTI:
  • Drink plenty of water every day. Some doctors suggest drinking cranberry juice, which in large amounts inhibits the growth of some bacteria by acidifying the urine. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplements have the same effect.
  • Urinate when you feel the need, i.e., do not resist the urge to urinate.
  • Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra.
  • Take showers instead of tub baths.
  • Cleanse the genital area before sexual intercourse.
  • Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches, which may irritate the urethra.


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