What is a UTI?
A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Most commonly, infections are in the lower urinary tract – ie. the bladder and urethra. If left untreated, however, a UTI can spread to the ureters or kidneys in your upper urinary tract, which can lead to permanent kidney damage and even death. That’s why it’s important to treat a UTI sooner rather than later.
How do I know if I have a UTI?
Symptoms can vary from person to person. For some, (especially the very old or very young), UTI symptoms can be less specific, and some people might not have any symptoms at all.
Classic symptoms of a UTI include:
- A burning sensation when you urinate
- Feeling like you need to urinate all the time, even when your bladder is empty.
- Urine that is cloudy, bloody/discolored, or has a strong odor
- Pelvic pressure or discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Upper back and side pain
- High fever
- Shaking and chills
(If you are experiencing any of the last 5 symptoms, listed in bold, this could be a sign that the infection has spread to your kidneys. It’s important to contact your doctor or go to urgent care as soon as you can.)
Could it be something else?
Sometimes, your urinary tract or urethra can be irritated without having a UTI, and that irritation can mimic UTI symptoms.We really love to recommend using an at-home UTI test strip (https://help.heydoctor.co/urinary-tract-infection-uti-faq/how-to-use-a-urine-test-strip) to double check and prevent exposure to unnecessary antibiotic use which can make treating future UTIs harder.
Keep in mind that there are some other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms, particularly certain sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or ghonorrea. Both are totally treatable, but not with the same meds you’d use on a UTI. That’s why it’s important to tell your doctor if you’re having recurring UTI’s or additional symptoms. (The doctors at HeyDoctor will specifically screen for this.)
Most UTI’s can be diagnosed based on your symptoms alone, and then treated with a simple course of antibiotics. In special circumstances a UTI may require more intensive treatment.
While you wait for the antibiotics to start relieving symptoms, there are a few things you can do to help. Drink plenty of fluids to dilute the urine and help flush out bacteria. But remember that not all fluids are created equal - alcohol, caffeine and citrusy beverages can all irritate your bladder and make your symptoms even worse. And finally, if you’re having lower abdominal pain from the infection, you can use a heating pad on the affected area.