• The persistent urgency to urinate coupled with a burning sensation often means you have a urinary tract infection (UTI). This strain of infection is particularly annoying when you need to concentrate on something else, but left untreated, it can be fatal. You have several options for managing your UTI, so relief may only be a few days away.

    Urinary Tract Infection Basics

    Your urinary system is responsible for filtering out liquid wastes and toxins and carrying them from your body. The bladder, kidneys, urethra and ureters make up this system. Due to the internal filtration, urine is typically sterile and the risk of infection slight. Whenever Escherichia coli (E. coli) or other bacteria travels into your ureters and multiplies, your risk increases and a urinary tract infection can occur. Symptoms vary by person, but if you have a UTI, you'll generally experience the frequent urge to urinate and pass very little urine each time. You may experience a burning sensation or notice your urine is cloudy and foul smelling. Blood sometimes appears in urine during infection and men may have discharge from the penis.

    Treating Urinary Tract Infections

    If you visit a doctor upon first experiencing symptoms, he can provide you with antibiotics to treat your urinary tract infection. Although you may take pills for a full 10 days, uncomfortable symptoms should begin to dissipate within two or three days. To ease burning sensations, your doctor can prescribe a dye pill, so don't worry if your urine turns orange or brown after beginning treatment. When you're unable to see a doctor, there are still ways for you to manage a urinary tract infection. Drink plenty of purified water and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages as they can irritate an already inflamed system. Cranberry juice also helps flush bacteria from your system, but you may take cranberry supplements for similar results if you dislike the juice. You'll also want to avoid sexual activity for at least two weeks after symptoms disappear to ensure the bacteria are dead. Make sure to seek a doctor's care if you experience fever, chills or lower severe lower back pain with your UTI. The infection can spread to the kidneys or travel into the bloodstream, causing severe complications, including death. Generally, if you're not feeling better within a week of self-treatment, you need a doctor's assistance.

    Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

    Women are most at risk of getting urinary tract infections because of shorter urethras, but men with enlarged prostates are also at risk. To lessen the chances of infection, urinate once you feel urge and stay hydrated with plenty of liquids. Women should urinate soon after sexual intercourse to flush out any bacteria and consider wearing underwear with cotton lining to absorb bacteria in vaginal discharge. In 2009, researchers began testing the effectiveness of urinary tract infection vaccines, so that may well be an option for managing UTIs.


    Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

    National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse


    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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