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UTIs: Mild Discomfort or Something to Worry About?

If you've ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know how uncomfortable these pesky infections can be. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe side effects that can cause you to miss work. There are a few different types of UTIs in women, with the most common ones affecting the bladder and urethra.

While a UTI isn’t generally a worrisome medical condition, there are a few instances where severe infections can lead to life-threatening complications.

Symptoms of a UTI

UTIs are a bacterial infection. They happen when bacteria enter your body through the urinary tract. Once the bacteria reach your bladder, they begin to multiply. UTIs can affect your bladder, urethra, and even your kidneys. UTIs that affect the urethra only cause mild symptoms, such as burning upon urination. UTIs in the bladder can create pressure in your pelvis, discomfort, and frequent and painful urination. When UTIs affect the kidney, the symptoms can be severe and include intense upper back pain, fevers, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

The most common UTIs are cystitis in the bladder and urethritis in the urethra. Both are caused when bacteria enters either area, through sex or some other means.

Causes of UTIs in Women

UTIs are common occurrences in women and often not caused by sex. Women are more at risk for UTIs because of their anatomy. Women have shorter urethras, meaning that bacteria have less distance to travel to get into the bladder and multiply.

Sexual activity, diaphragms (for birth control), and spermicidal creams can also cause UTIs. After menopause, women are more at risk for such infections as well, because the drop in estrogen can cause you to be more vulnerable to the infection.

Complications of Severe UTIs

UTIs are not usually serious and are treated easily in the early stages of infection, also known as a lower UTI. If left untreated, however, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and cause severe complications, include recurring UTIs, risks during pregnancy, permanent kidney damage, and sepsis, which is a life-threatening situation.

Treatment for UTIs

If you're feeling symptoms of a UTI, speak with your OBGYN. Your doctor will run a few tests and determine which bacteria are responsible for the infection and which antibiotics are best for that type of infection. Severe or recurring infections may call for longer doses of antibiotics, sometimes even intravenous medication.

If you're suffering from the discomfort of a UTI, contact the Women's Medical Associates of Nashville for help.