Perhaps because urinary tract infection is increasingly common—affecting people of all ages and gender—we’re quick to dismiss it as another harmless condition. Doing so, however, can be dangerous.
According to Kidney Health Australia, around one in two women and one in 20 men will contract a urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetime. Incidence rates are higher in women than in men because of the former’s anatomic structure. Because the perineum (area between the anus and external genitals) is much shorter in women, infection-causing bacteria such as Escherichia coli can easily enter the urinary tract. In addition, a number of other factors such as sexual activity, birth control methods, and pregnancy also predispose women to UTI.
On the other hand, men aren’t completely off the hook. In fact, because this infection is quite rare among them, it’s usually linked to more serious urological problems, such as prostatitis, urethral stricture, bladder neck obstruction, and even prostate cancer.
Unfortunately, many patients shrug it off as just another harmless condition that would go away on its own. In some cases, though, natural remedies for UTI may not work. Here are 5 signs you should seek medical treatment for your urinary woes.
1. You’re experiencing nausea, fever, and back pain.
Nausea, fever, and back pains (below the rib cage and above the waist) are all signs of severe upper UTI or kidney infection. Medically termed pyelonephritis, kidney complications are unpleasant and take longer to treat. Therefore, aside from antibiotics, your physician may also prescribe painkillers to treat a kidney infection. Failing to manage this condition properly may result to blood poisoning (sepsis) and pus buildup (abscess).
2. You’re pregnant.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy leads to an increased risk of UTI. Aside from this, the extra weight in the uterus may make it hard for pregnant women to completely empty their bladder. When this happens, an infection may develop as bacteria multiply in the urinary tract.
Although UTI isn’t usually a serious health concern, it can cause some alarming complications for pregnant women. It may cause preterm labor and low birth weight, especially if it progresses into a full-blown kidney problem. Plus, pregnant women should be careful about taking antibiotics and other types of drugs to prevent birth defects and other problems.
3. Your UTI keeps coming back.
If your UTI symptoms refuse to respond to medication, or you find yourself complaining about urinary discomforts every now and then, you may have a chronic infection. If not managed well, a chronic UTI may lead to serious kidney problems, fatigue, and mental disorientation. Thus, it’s best to consult your doctor immediately in these cases. They may recommend further testing or administer stronger antibiotics. Often, however, a combination of lifestyle changes and proper medical treatment should help you cure a stubborn UTI.
4. You have diabetes.
There are three main reasons why UTI is a nightmare for everyone with diabetes. The most alarming one is that diabetes can significantly impair one’s immune system, making it much harder for the body to counter infections. This also weakens the healing effects of antibiotics.
Second, diabetes can mess with a patient’s nerve signals. When this happens, you may experience dysfunctions in your urinary system. Too much sugar in the blood can also aggravate UTI, as the kidneys might have a hard time filtering out toxins.
5. You’re more than 65 years old.
Elderly people are more susceptible to infections because of aging-related declines in bodily processes. In many cases, they may also be dealing with other complications that suppress their immune response.
What makes UTI a tricky case for the elderly is that it’s commonly mistaken as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Its symptoms include confusion and delirium, hallucinations, agitation, and other alarming behavioral changes. In such situations,it’s best to seek medical assistance to identify the best courses of treatment.
Ideally, you should immediately seek medical help upon experiencing UTI symptoms. Although home remedies for UTI often work, they may not be able to cure severe cases. Thus, getting yourself checked by a certified medical practitioner is preferable in order to fully get rid of all your urinary-related complications.