According to abbreviationfinder, an urinary tract infection can occur at any age and is often noticeable through unpleasant symptoms. As a rule, the urinary tract infection is not a worrying diagnosis and can be treated well. It is only problematic if a urinary tract infection goes unnoticed for a long time and complications arise in the course of the disease. A urinary tract infection should be distinguished from a bladder infection .
What is a urinary tract infection?
The urinary tract infection is a disease of the urinary and urinary organs – i.e. it affects the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Pathogenic microorganisms settle there and cause inflammation.
In many cases, these are bacteria, more rarely fungi, viruses or parasites. The infection is often limited to the urethra and bladder; if it ascends into the kidneys, rapid and targeted treatment is particularly important.
In rare, severe cases, the urinary tract infection leads to the spread of pathogens through the bloodstream.
The most common cause of urinary tract infections are intestinal bacteria that enter the urinary tract via the urethra. Weak immune systems or previous illnesses can promote infection or be the reason why the urinary tract infection is more difficult to treat.
When the urinary tract narrows due to anatomical abnormalities, prostate enlargement, kidney stones, catheterization or inflammatory processes, urinary tract infections occur more easily. Risk groups are diabetics, pregnant women, very young or elderly people, patients after surgery in the area of the urinary tract, but also people who drink very little.
Sexual activity can sometimes cause the spread of infectious agents into the urinary tract. Not all causes of urinary tract infections are known today, so some women have repeated infections, the triggers of which remain unclear.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Characteristic signs of a urinary tract infection include burning pain when urinating or an increased urge to urinate. The stream of urine is usually weakened or suddenly stops when urinating. In addition, most of those affected find it difficult to hold their urine for a long time. An infection is always associated with pain in the lower abdomen.
A typical symptom is also blood in the urine. The intense red coloration of the urine occurs especially in the acute phase of the disease, but is relatively harmless. Serious symptoms can occur if the urinary tract infection is particularly severe. Then general symptoms such as fever and chills can be added to the problems with urination.
Severe pain usually occurs, which is localized in the lower abdomen, but can also radiate to the lateral abdominal area as well as to the perineum and genital area. Occasionally, there are symptoms that are similar to the flu – such as tiredness and exhaustion, difficulty concentrating and cardiovascular problems. A urinary tract infection usually occurs suddenly and worsens as the disease progresses.
With prompt treatment, the symptoms subside after a week or two. Rarely does the infection spread, which can lead to chronic problems in the urinary tract.
Diagnosis & History
At the beginning of the diagnosis of a urinary tract infection is the perception of the patient. Typical symptoms are a constant urge to urinate, pain and burning when urinating, as well as cloudy, possibly bloody and foul-smelling urine. Abdominal pain and fever are common, nausea and vomiting are possible side effects.
Such symptoms should always lead the person affected to see a doctor. The doctor will require a urine sample from the patient after a general examination. Using test strips and possibly microscopic assessment, a urinary tract infection can often be diagnosed or ruled out right away in the practice.
If the doctor needs a detailed report, the sample goes to a laboratory. For the patient, that’s usually the end of the matter. More specific examinations are only necessary if the course of the urinary tract infection is unusual or severe.
If a urinary tract infection is not recognized or adequately treated, bacteria can ascend through the ureters into the kidneys and trigger inflammation of the renal pelvis there. This is usually noticeable by blood in the urine, general malaise, pain in the kidney area and fever.
If bacteria enter the bloodstream via the kidney tissue, which is well supplied with blood, life-threatening blood poisoning (urosepsis) can be the result – taking a suitable antibiotic in good time and drinking enough fluids prevents this serious complication.
If there is also an outflow disorder in the kidneys, the acute inflammation of the renal pelvis sometimes turns into a chronic form, which leads to a reduction in kidney function in the long term. In rare cases, the germs introduced via the bladder can cause a kidney abscess. During pregnancy, a urinary tract infection can, under unfavorable circumstances, trigger a premature birth: pregnant women should therefore consult a doctor at the first sign.
In men, germs from the bladder can get into the epididymis via the vas deferens and trigger epididymitis there – a serious complication that can result is a loss of fertility. If a urinary tract infection is treated with an antibiotic, the therapy must not be stopped prematurely: Otherwise, the causative bacteria will develop a resistance to the active substance, which can lead to a recurring urinary tract infection.
When should you go to the doctor?
If you notice stinging or burning pain when urinating, you may have a urinary tract infection. Medical advice is required if the symptoms do not go away on their own within a few days or other symptoms appear. If the pain radiates to the lower abdomen or if there is an increased urge to urinate, but only a small amount of urine escapes, a doctor must be consulted. If you have symptoms of fever, you should go to the hospital immediately.
It may be due to renal colic or inflammation of the renal pelvis, which if left untreated can cause serious complications. Blood in the urine is also a warning sign of a serious illness that requires medical evaluation. If the symptoms do not subside despite drug treatment, a specialist should be consulted.
A more detailed diagnosis is necessary, as there may be another underlying condition. People who keep getting a urinary tract infection should also have it checked out. In addition to the family doctor, the urologist or a specialist in internal medicine can be consulted.
Treatment & Therapy
The aim of treating a urinary tract infection is to quickly relieve the symptoms and remove harmful microorganisms. Once the diagnosis has been established and there are no contraindications, the doctor usually prescribes an antibiotic.
For the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections, there are proven preparations that are taken orally and are well tolerated. It is important that the patient does not stop the treatment prematurely, even if the symptoms have subsided. The doctor will often recommend accompanying measures. This includes drinking a lot (it should be about two liters a day) and frequent emptying of the bladder. Diuretic teas help flush the urinary tract, and keeping the affected area warm will calm the inflammation.
If the urinary tract infection is very painful, you can ask the doctor about a suitable painkiller, but the symptoms usually subside soon after taking the antibiotic. If it turns out that the infection is more stubborn, a laboratory examination of the urine is arranged at this point at the latest and the choice of antibiotic is changed if necessary. It is only in exceptional cases that outpatient treatment for a urinary tract infection is not sufficient and the patient has to be treated in the clinic.
Outlook & Forecast
The urinary tract infection has a good prognosis. The disease can be treated well and usually heals completely within a few weeks. After just a few days, there is a significant regression of the symptoms. Medical care is not always necessary for the patient.
In the case of a mild urinary tract infection, the patient can already achieve relief from the symptoms and subsequent freedom from symptoms with bladder teas and natural medicinal herbs. It is important for a speedy recovery to drink enough fluids and to protect yourself from heat.
In many cases, this prevents the spread of pathogens and helps to remove dead bacteria from the organism. With a healthy immune system, sufficient defenses are often mobilized so that no further measures need to be taken.
In the case of a severe urinary tract infection and in people who have a weakened immune system or an enlarged prostate, the use of drug treatment is important for a good prognosis. The administration of the medicines kills the pathogens and stabilizes the health of the patient.
If there are no further complications, you will be free of symptoms within two weeks. A urinary tract infection can occur again at any time in life. The prognosis remains favorable if the symptoms return.
Anyone who has had a urinary tract infection may be more susceptible to a new illness in the future. So prevention is a good idea. Sufficient drinking, regular, complete emptying of the bladder and avoiding cold in the bladder and kidney region support the health of the urinary tract.
The effectiveness of different home remedies for urinary tract infections could not be proven in studies and they under no circumstances replace antibiotic therapy. For prevention, however, everyone can try out what works for them, but it should be clarified by consultation with the doctor whether the application suits the individual health situation.
Follow-up care for a bladder infection is extremely important. Bladder infections that are not completely healed can spread to the upper urinary tract and cause serious problems. Possible consequences of a bladder infection are inflammation of the renal pelvis. To rule out a recurrence and/or spread of the bacteria, the patient should attend a follow-up appointment after the treatment.
Follow-up care can be provided by the general practitioner or a urologist. For this purpose, the doctor will conduct a medical history interview and examine the patient physically. As a rule, a quick urine test is also carried out in the practice to clarify whether there is blood and/or bacteria in the urine. If this is the case, the therapy may need to be prolonged.
The patient himself should take it easy after a urinary tract infection and protect the kidney area from drafts. Swimming in very cold water should therefore be avoided in the first two weeks. Hypothermia of the feet should also be counteracted by wearing thick socks. It is also important that the patient drinks a lot after a urinary tract infection. A sufficient supply of liquid is essential for the kidneys so that they can excrete pollutants and bacteria with the urine.
Urinary tract infections often need to be treated with antibiotics. This usually not only kills the bacteria that are responsible for the urinary tract infection, but also positively minded intestinal residents that are essential for the immune system. Some patients complain of diarrhea and stomach cramps after antibiotic therapy. In this case, intestinal cleansing can help.
You can do that yourself
In the case of a urinary tract infection, the doctor usually prescribes an antibiotic and recommends accompanying measures. The most effective way to help yourself is to drink plenty of fluids (at least two to three liters a day) and empty your bladder regularly. Diuretic teas help to flush the urinary tract and transport the pathogens out of the body. In addition, the herbs contained have an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effect.
What to Avoid: Coffee, alcohol, and other irritating drinks and foods that may irritate the urinary tract. This includes sugary foods and sodas. Cranberry juice is considered a miracle cure, which can prevent the infection from spreading and reliably prevent the recurrence of a bladder infection.
Acute relief is obtained by applying a hot water bottle or warm compresses. Foot baths can also help. At the same time, those affected should take it easy and avoid cool seats. Increased body and intimate hygiene is also recommended to prevent the infection from spreading.
In severe cases – for example, if blood is noticed in the urine or the symptoms last longer than three days – a doctor should be consulted again with the urinary tract infection.