A UTI or bladder infection results when bacteria gain access and multiply in the normally sterile urinary bladder. Bacteria infect the bladder by way of the urethra, a small tube connecting the bladder to the outside. The urethra is very short and opens near the vagina. These two factors make bladder infections very common in women. Men rarely develop bladder infections because their urethras are longer.
The symptoms include discomfort when urinating, increased frequency, and a feeling of urinary urgency, sometimes with uncontrolled dribbling of urine. Fever is usually absent but lower abdominal pain or discomfort may occur. Occasionally, there may be blood noticed on toilet tissue.
An uncomplicated UTI is not dangerous if treated promptly. If untreated, bacteria may also infect the kidney, producing a more serious illness (pyelonephritis). Chills, fever with back pain, nausea or vomiting may indicate kidney involvement. Contact the Health Center or go to an emergency room if these symptoms develop.
The diagnosis might require that a urine specimen be examined in the laboratory. When the urine is examined under a microscope, white and red blood cells and bacteria may be found. Vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause symptoms exactly like those of a UTI, so a genital exam may be necessary.
You will be treated with one of several antibiotics that will kill the responsible bacteria. It may be prescribed as a 3-day or 7-day regimen, depending on your circumstance. Each antibiotic has specific directions. Please be sure you understand clearly how to take them and that you take all the pills prescribed with a full glass of water.
There is some evidence suggesting antibiotics may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, the patch and other hormonal contraceptives. If you are using this method of contraception, it is advised that you use a back-up method such as condoms while you are taking your medication and for a week after finishing the medication.
If your symptoms have not completely resolved after finishing all your medication, it is important that you contact the Health Center. You may need a different medication.
The following may be helpful in preventing future infections:
If you are having recurrent UTIs and using spermicides for contraception, you may want to discuss other options with your primary care provider.
If you have any questions, you may call a consulting nurse service for further information.
Authored by: Hall Health Women's Clinic