The onset of urinary tract infection symptoms can come on quickly and are quite painful. Chances are you have experienced the burning sensation or the increase in urination frequency associated with urinary tract infections. In fact, the burning can become so intense that you almost dread going to the bathroom, and the feeling like you have to go every five seconds makes it so that once you are finally there, you never want to leave!

If you are a woman, your chances of developing a urinary tract infection are even greater than your male counterpart in that a woman’s urethra is shorter, which means infection-causing bacteria has a shorter distance to travel. In women, the urethra is located near the rectum; subsequently, bacteria from the rectum can travel from the urethra and cause these pesky, not to mention painful, infections. While any part of the urinary system–kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra–is subject to infection, most infections take place in the bladder and urethra.

What Causes a Urinary Tract Infection?

The bacteria responsible for causing this type of infection lives in the large intestine and is found in the stool. When these germs find their way inside the urethra, they may enter the bladder and cause an infection.

Certain health conditions such as diabetes, an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, or even pregnancy may increase a person’s susceptibility to developing a urinary tract infection.

For women, sexual intercourse may be responsible for causing urinary tract infections because bacteria can be pushed into the urethra. Furthermore, using a diaphragm can also lead to urinary tract infections because the birth control device pushes up against the urethra, making it more difficult to completely empty the bladder. As a result, the remaining urine is more likely to cause an infection.

What are the Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection?

There are a number of related symptoms associated with urinary tract infections. Below is a list of the more common symptoms. If, however, you experience a persistent symptom that has not been mentioned on this list, schedule an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist, as you may need to be placed on an antibiotic in order to get rid of the infection.

Common symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Burning sensation, pain and/or discomfort while urinating
– Feeling the urge to urinate but not being able to
– Increase in urinary frequency
– Leaking of urine
– Fever
– Back pain (usually only on one side)
– Nausea and/or vomiting
– Pelvic pain (women)
– Rectal pain (men)
– Foul-smelling urine
– Cloudy urine
– Urine that is pink may indicate the presence of blood

Are There Risk Factors?

Some people never have a urinary tract infection while others suffer with recurrent bouts. Certain risk factors are associated with urinary tract infections, and include the following:

-Gender: As mentioned earlier, due to their anatomical make-up, women are more prone than men to develop urinary tract infections.

-Sexual activity: A sexually active woman is at higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection for reasons mentioned previously.

Birth control: Using a diaphragm as a form of birth control puts women at a higher risk of infection.

-Menopause: Women experiencing the changes associated with menopause may experience frequent or recurring infections due to lower levels of estrogen.

-Compromised immune system: A compromised immune system inhabits the body’s natural defenses against germs and subsequent infections.

How to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection

Antibiotics are generally the most commonly prescribed medication used to treat both the symptoms and the actual infection. Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed. Do not discontinue use of your antibiotic because you are feeling better, as this will place you at a higher risk of developing a relapse of infection.

Certain over-the-counter medications such as AZO (phenazopyridine) and Cystex (sodium salicylate) can provide temporary relief of symptoms.

How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection

There are certain things you can do to prevent recurring urinary tract infections:

– Increase your intake of water and other fluids, as this will help dilute urine and flush out infection-causing bacteria. Do not drink caffeinated beverages, alcohol or sodas containing citrus juice, as these drinks may aggravate symptoms. Cranberry juice is recommended for use during an infection but could have a negative effect on certain medications such as warfarin. If you happen to take this particular medication, speak with your pharmacist, as there may be an alternative you could use.

– Do not ignore the urge to urinate. If you have to go, then make it your business to go.

– For women, use an ample amount of lubrication during sex, and if possible try to urinate right after sex.

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