Across all age groups, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common. In fact, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, they account for more than 8 million healthcare provider visits each year.
While different people may experience different symptoms, the most common include:
- A frequent and intense urge to use the bathroom
- Passing only small amounts of urine at a time
- A burning sensation
- Blood in the urine
Made up of six organs (your two kidneys, two ureters, bladder and urethra), your urinary tract is designed to keep bacteria out. But, even despite its best efforts, bacteria can still make its way in. When it does, it multiplies quickly—which is what causes a urinary tract infection. Most of the time, the infection will be in your bladder, but ultimately, it can live anywhere in the tract.
How much do you know about urinary tract infections? It’s time to test your knowledge. Today, Afaaq Siddiqui, M.D., a family medicine doctor at Henry Ford Health, is sharing eight surprising facts.
- With a urinary tract infection, you may have a high fever. When you go to the doctor with a fever and you’re also coughing or sneezing, the fever will likely be because of a cold. But, when you have a fever and no other symptoms, it could be a urinary tract infection, says Dr. Siddiqui. If your temperature is above 101 or 102 degrees, it’s certainly something to suspect.
- You may have back pain. If the infection is high enough in your body, you may experience soreness or stiffness.
- They’re more common in women than men. The urethra is a connection from inside of your bladder to outside of your body, and that’s usually how bacteria gets in. Because women have a shorter urethra than men, they’re more susceptible to an infection. After all, the bacteria has a shorter distance to travel and a smaller area to affect. For women, the lifetime risk of having a UTI is more than 50 percent.
- Cranberry juice hasn’t been proven to prevent UTIs. Despite the common belief that cranberry juice is the answer to keeping UTIs away, there’s no proven evidence that this works. If you enjoy drinking cranberry juice and feel it helps you, there’s no harm in it. (Just watch the calories.) Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, is a good habit to prevent this kind of infection. It will make you urinate more frequently, flushing bacteria out of your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Diabetes can make you more likely to develop a UTI. According to the National Kidney Foundation, if you have diabetes, it may actually be easier for you to get a urinary tract infection. Often times, the disease affects your body’s defense system, making it harder to keep bacteria out.
- You may feel confusion. For older adults (usually older than 65-70), a urinary tract infection may make you feel confused about your everyday life or increase symptoms of dementia. You may not have any other symptoms associated with a urinary tract infection, but it just may turn out to be the culprit. In this case, Dr. Siddiqui says, patients should start to see improvement after treatment.
- Catheters can increase your chance of getting a UTI. Whether you’re male or female, any bacteria on a catheter can infect your bladder. If you’ve had a catheter for a long period of time, you could be more prone to urinary tract infections.
- A UTI can lead to serious complications. Detecting and treating these infections is so important, because without an antibiotic, they could lead to scaring of the renal tract, hypertension and even kidney injuries. If you think you could have a urinary tract infection, Dr. Siddiqui recommends you see a doctor, sooner rather than later.
With a quick trip to your doctor or a visit to your local walk-in clinic, a urinary tract infection is very treatable. Talk to your doctor if you seem to get them frequently or if you notice any new symptoms.
Dr. Afaaq Siddiqui is a family medicine doctor who sees patients of all ages at Henry Ford Medical Center – Beck Road.