Urinary Tract Infections. Symptoms, causes and the link to the pelvic floor
A urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection that can affect any part of the urinary system (this includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra). UTI’s are very common, especially in women, many of whom suffer with chronic infections for months or even years at a time. Women are much more likely to suffer from a UTI because the female urethra is shorter than the male equivalent which makes it easier for bacteria to travel up the urinary tract. Women's urethra are also closer and more in line with the anus where bacteria can leak from.
Types of urinary tract infection
Cystitis (bladder): You feel like you need to urinate a lot and might feel a burning pain when you do. You may have pain in your lower tummy and have cloudy or even bloody urine.
Urethritis (urethra): Can cause discharge and burning when you urinate.
Pyelonephritis (kidneys): Can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and pain in your back and sides.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection
-Burning pain when you urinate.
-A frequent urge to urinate, even though little or none comes out when you do go.
-Cloudy, dark, smelly or even bloody urine.
-Feeling tired and shaky.
-Fever and chills (a sign the infection may have reached the kidneys).
-Pain or pressure in your back, belly or sides
What causes a urinary tract infection?
UTI’s are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. This can be caused by a host of things like wiping back to front after using the loo, tampon strings, tight underwear like thongs moving backwards and forwards against the body and sex. As mentioned before, the female urethra is much shorter than the male version and as a result, bacteria is much more easily introduced. Some women are actually genetically predisposed to UTI’s and those with diabetes or other health conditions that weaken the immune system are also more likely to suffer with them too.
How is a urinary tract infection treated?
Initially, self-care and over the counter treatments are recommended first like painkillers, or sodium citrate sachets like Cystocalm which are powders mixed into a glass of water. If deemed necessary, antibiotics will be prescribed to help clear the infection.
A common self-care treatment is drinking cranberry juice to help avoid or treat UTI’s, unfortunately this method of treatment is not as effective as most think. Cranberries contain a substance called A- Type proanthocyanins (PACs). PACs help prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall so it's only logical to assume they can help with UTI’s. Sadly, the amount of PACs in cranberries and cranberry juice is so little that tens of gallons would be needed before any sort of benefit is felt. So next time you’re suffering with that familiar burning sensation, stick to the recommended treatments.
UTI or urinary retention
Urinary retention is a condition where you cannot empty your bladder fully. This can be both annoying and dangerous to the sufferer. It can be caused by a host of things like a weak and tense pelvic floor and pelvic organ prolapse. Many of the symptoms of urinary retention and a UTI are the same like finding it hard to empty your bladder fully, feeling like you still need to urinate after you leave the bathroom, stinging or burning when you do go. The only way to truly know if you are suffering from a UTI or urinary retention or a UTI is to visit your doctor for testing, they might refer you to a pelvic floor physio or urinary specialist for further investigation. Incomplete bladder emptying can cause some serious health problems if not addressed, so it’s important to get yourself checked out to be sure.
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