Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by the introduction of bacteria into the sterile urinary tract, often a result of sexual activity or improper wiping after toileting. UTIs occur most commonly in the urethra (the tube through which urine leaves the body) or bladder. Bladder infections often clear up without medication; however, a bladder infection may worsen and spread to the kidneys. Whereas most bladder infections can be treated at home, kidney infections can be very serious and may even require hospitalization.
Diagnosis and Comfort
At-home urine testing kits are available without prescription to test for UTIs. These kits work by detecting the chemicals that are given off by the most common types of bacteria that infect the urinary tract. These tests are considered fairly accurate; however, it is possible to miss some infections. Your physician can perform more accurate tests, including bacteria cultures and sensitivities that will show the most effective antibiotics to treat your infection.
Urinary tract infections can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including burning upon urination, lower abdominal pain, and urinary urgency (even when the bladder is mostly empty). Many over-the-counter medications are available to help relieve these symptoms. Remember, these medications do not treat the source of the infection. Some common types of these medications include Uristat, Cystex, and AZO. Some of these medications will cause a harmless change in urine color, and other side effects and allergic reactions are possible, so be sure to read labels carefully.
The first rule in treating any UTI is to increase water intake to help flush the bacteria from the body. Sometimes a natural diuretic, such as dandelion root or corn silk, is added to increase urine production. Cranberry is often used to change the urinary tract environment, making it inhospitable to the bacteria. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, cranberry may also help prevent UTIs: "Research shows that components found in cranberry may prevent bacteria, such as E. coli, from clinging to the cells along the walls of the urinary tract and causing infection." Nutritional supplements, such as garlic and ginger, have naturally occurring antibacterial properties that may also aid in treating a UTI.
Always consult your physician if you have any questions about your symptoms or about treatment. If you develop a fever or pain in the lower back or sides, contact your physician immediately because these are potential signs of a kidney infection. If increasing fluids and other natural treatments do not relieve your symptoms in three to seven days, consult your physician about prescription antibiotics. Typically, bladder infections can be treated at home with a variety of antibiotics including amoxicillin, cephalosporins, sulfonamides, and quinolones. Kidney infections must be treated aggressively, often with IV antibiotics, to prevent damage to the kidneys.