Urinary tract infection symptoms: 9 most common and how to treat
The infection can manifest itself in different ways, depending on the type and structure of the affected urinary system.
Urinary infection causes symptoms that can vary greatly from one person to another and according to the site of the urinary system affected (urethra, bladder or kidneys). The most classic ones include strong burning when urinating, feeling of heaviness in the belly and frequent urge to urinate.
More common in women, urinary tract infection usually arises when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. To define the symptoms, it is important to understand that it is divided into different types, namely:
- pyelonephritis: is a type of urinary tract infection that starts in the urethra or bladder to one or both kidneys. If left untreated, pyelonephritis can permanently damage the kidneys—or, in some cases, the causative bacteria can spread through the bloodstream, causing a life-threatening infection;
Cystitis: is a bacterial infection of the bladder or lower urinary tract caused, in most cases, by a type of bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract called Escherichia coli. Because of their anatomy, all women are at risk of developing cystitis—specifically because of the short distance from the urethra to the anus and from the urethral opening to the bladder;
Urethritis: consists of inflammation or infection of the urethra, the channel responsible for carrying urine from the bladder out of the body. Urethritis results from bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract, but because the urethra in women is closer to the vagina, some infections can cause urethritis, such as herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
According to Rodrigo Wilson Andrade, a urologist at Hospital Albert Sabin in São Paulo, it is important to seek help whenever there is discomfort or pain, in order to make an adequate diagnosis based on a urine test and urine culture before starting the specific treatment.
What are the main symptoms of urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infection can manifest itself in different ways, depending on the type and structure of the affected urinary system. In some cases, it is possible that the patient is asymptomatic, that is, do not show the symptoms of the problem. In general, signs can include:
1. Pain or burning when urinating
The symptom, also called dysuriais the most common in cases of urinary infection and encompasses different complaints during urination, such as pain, burning, discomfort and burning. It is more common in cystitis and urethritis — it may occasionally occur in cases of pyelonephritis. In the case of people with a vagina, it is important to check with a gynecologist whether the symptom, rather than a urinary tract infection, is being caused by a gynecological infection, such as vulvitis and vaginitis.
2. Blood in the urine
Call of hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine can be frightening, but it should be noted that, in most cases, it is not a sign of severity. Like dysuria, the symptom arises from irritation of the bladder and urethra, being more common in cases of cystitis. Hematuria can be macroscopic, when it is easily noticed in the urine; or microscopic, when it is only detected through laboratory tests.
3. Constant urge to urinate
Common in cystitis, the constant urge to urinate is also called pollakiuria. The need to urinate frequently, however, is characterized by a small volume of urine with each urination. This implies that the patient feels that the bladder has not been emptied completely and returns to urinate again. However, the false impression stems from irritation of the organ, and not from the presence of urine.
4. Low back pain
One of the most common symptoms of pyelonephritis is backache, which usually affects only one side of the body. The symptom characterizes a pain in the kidneys, since the bacteria present in the urinary tract go up through the ureters and reach the organ. It can appear in cystitis, but not intensely. Pyelonephritis can also cause severe renal colic.
In urinary infection, high fever appears especially in cases of pyelonephritis, accompanied by other symptoms such as chills and nausea. The symptom usually differentiates pyelonephritis from other types of urinary infection and, according to Rodrigo, denotes a more serious problem.
6. Bad smell in urine
The presence of bacteria can cause bad smell in urine, caused by cystitis and urethritis. In most cases, the sign may only indicate that the urine is very concentrated and the urea, the substance responsible for the characteristic odor, is poorly diluted. The symptom must be evaluated by an expert.
7. Urinary incontinence
Cases of urinary incontinence, in which there may be difficulty holding urine and involuntary leakage, are more common in children and the elderly. In these cases, the origin of urinary infection is usually in the bladder.
8. Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms in pyelonephritis and usually accompany loss of appetite, chills and high fever, above 38 degrees. Cystitis, although it can cause discomfort, rarely causes episodes of vomiting.
9. Urethral discharge
THE pus out of the urethra is a common symptom of urethritis, usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhea. The discharge is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain and burning when urinating. In people with a vagina, it can also appear with a vaginal discharge.
Urinary tract infection symptoms in pregnancy
Symptoms of urinary tract infection in pregnancy may vary, but they tend to manifest the same way in non-pregnant people. According to gynecologist Lilian Fiorelli in a previous interview with MinhaVida, some of them are common during pregnancy, such as a frequent urge to urinate and a feeling of heaviness in the belly. For this reason, they can be easily disguised and confused with signs of pregnancy.
How to treat urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infection is treated through administering antibiotic medicationslike nitrofurantoin and penicillin, but the medical indication may vary according to the type of infection and the causative microorganism. Remedies help eliminate the causative bacteria and alleviate the main symptoms.
Learn more: Remedies for urinary tract infection: see 10 most suitable options
In conjunction with clinical treatment, it is important to adopt some lifestyle habits to help with recovery. Consuming plenty of water is the main thing and contributes to expelling bacteria and impurities from the bladder and urethra, in addition to not holding pee and emptying the bladder completely every time you go to urinate.
The use of home methods can help alleviate the symptoms, such as the consumption of teas, but it is noteworthy that they should not replace clinical treatment with antibiotics. If the patient is pregnant, the method should also be evaluated by a specialist.
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