There are a few names we use to refer to a Urinary Tract Infection depending on where they occur. If it’s in the bladder, it’s referred to as cystitis; in the urethra, it’s called urethritis; and, in the kidney, it’s known by pyelonephritis. No matter what you call it, a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is caused by microbes (also known as bacteria) overcoming the body’s defenses in the urinary tract. Affecting multiple different parts of the urinary tract (kidney, bladder, and the tubes that run between them), a UTI is often caused by the bacteria E. coli (Escherichia coli: a bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract). There are other bacteria that may be responsible, but regardless of the cause, a UTI is a (sometimes very) painful infection.
Some people have been erroneously told that “holding their pee” causes a UTI. While that’s not entirely true, it’s not totally false either. The root of the whole “holding your pee” myth is twofold. Firstly, being dehydrated can cause people to get UTIs, and so obviously, keeping hydrated is key in prevention. The second part of that is that you must empty your bladder on a regular basis, which means you must empty it completely.
Basically, bacteria is more likely to sit and multiply in the bladder, placing you at risk of contracting a UTI if you don’t keep hydrated and urinate sufficiently.
Here’s another key fact. UTIs are more common in women. One trigger: sex! Being sexually active can be messy business, especially on a germ level around the genitals. Sex is such a common cause, that they’ve even named the UTI that is spawned from sex “honeymoon cystitis.”
One way for women to help prevent a UTI from sexual activity is to keep the genitals clean. You could wipe the area with a wet wipe or a towel (always front to back), and of course, always urinate after sex.
Here are a few other causes:
- Blocked urine flow
- Kidney stones
- Some forms of contraception
- Some medication
- Procedures involving the urinary tract
- Frequent urge to pee
- Painful or burning sensation when urinating
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle aches and abdominal pain
Treating a UTI is usually fairly straightforward. Since it is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic can usually do the trick. However, it is important to get a proper diagnosis so that the right course of treatment can be prescribed. Also, if you suffer from recurrent UTIs, the issue might be a bit bigger, so you should see your doctor to dig a little deeper.
Remember that symptoms of a UTI can depend on age and gender (and a few more factors like whether you’ve had a catheter or another infection). One thing remains true, if you have a strong, frequent urge to urinate and a painful or burning sensation when urinating, it’s time to call your doctor.