Urinary tract infections are very common in the United States and the rest of the world. They can have many predisposing factors including old age, poor hygiene, and sexual activity. Women are at the highest risk of UTIs, as it is common for the vaginal bacteria to make it into the urinary tract.
There are two types of urinary tract infections depending on which part of the tract is infected. Cystitis refers to the most common and least complicated type of UTI. It is when the bladder is infected. Pyelonephritis, on the other hand, refers to an infection in the kidney and can be much more painful and more serious. Both types of infection are diagnosed based on a urine sample and clinical symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of cystitis include pain while urinating, frequent urination, and the feeling like you need to urinate even when you may not. There may also be blood in the urine. Many people report abdominal or pelvic cramping.
Pyelonephritis may present with all of the symptoms listed above for cystitis. To differentiate, it is important to note that people with pyelonephritis will likely also experience fever, chills, and nausea. Most people will also have flank pain along with abdominal pain.
Though urinary tract infections are common, they can become very serious. If you get a UTI, your clinician will place you on an antibiotic, though there are many things you can do on a regular basis to prevent getting a UTI in the first place. First and foremost, it is important to stay hydrated and to not hold your urine when you have to use the restroom. When using the restroom, it is important for women and girls to wipe front to back, to avoid getting bacteria from the stool into the urethra. Bacteria can also enter the urethra during sex, so it is important to urinate after sexual activity to flush the bacteria out. Tight pants or underwear can also increase perspiration, creating a bacterial breeding ground, so loose clothing is recommended to avoid infection.
In elderly people, urinary tract infections often present with sudden confusion or delirium. In fact, many elderly people present with cognitive or behavioral changes as their only symptom, so it is important to explore the possibility of a UTI for all elderly people presenting with altered mental status and to follow the steps listed above to prevent UTIs in your elderly loved ones.
Urinary tract infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html.
Urinary tract infections: Causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9135-urinary-tract-infections.
This article reviewed by Ms. Deb Dooley.
There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.
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April 5, 2022
April 5, 2022