A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) can be a pain. Several pains, in fact. You may feel UTI pain when you urinate, in your urethra and in your back. Pain has a very basic role–it’s your body’s way of telling you, “Hey! I need a little help here!” Unfortunately, that may be about all the pain can tell you. It’s your job to look at the rest of your symptoms to see just what help is actually needed.
GENERAL UTI SYMPTOMS
One of the most obvious symptoms of a UTI is pain during urination. Other UTI symptoms may include pain in your lower abdomen, or the need for frequent urination, even when you don’t have to go, or only have a little urine to pass. Urine that is consistently cloudy or strong smelling is another common UTI symptom. Blood in the urine can be a symptom of a UTI as well. All of these are important in recognizing a problem in your urinary tract.1
The urinary tract starts with the urethra. It continues to your bladder, and from there it passes along each ureter (the tube connecting your bladder to your kidney) all the way up to the kidneys themselves. A UTI can occur anywhere along this urinary tract. The symptoms of a UTI may vary, depending on where exactly the infection has begun, or to where it has spread. Most often a UTI begins as a bladder infection. Bladder infections are not generally considered medical emergencies; although, some people may be at higher risk for complications, including pregnant women, the elderly, and people with diabetes, kidney problems, or a compromised immune system. People who use catheters are especially at risk for urinary tract infections.2That is why it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional.
KIDNEY INFECTION SYMPTOMS
A kidney infection is more serious than a urinary tract infection. Symptoms for kidney infections include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and pain in your lower back–where your kidneys actually are. The main danger of any UTI is that it may spread to the kidneys. From there, bacteria can cause damage to the kidneys, resulting in reduced kidney function. Also, because the kidneys are a primary part of the body—filtering out waste products from the bloodstream—infections can spread back through the bloodstream to other organs.
The first step to diagnose a UTI is a urinalysis. This is a test that is meant to detect bacteria and abnormal counts of white blood cells. At home urinalysis tests can be useful to aid in detection, but if you have reason to believe you have a UTI, it’s important to seek the advice of a medical professional. Oral antibiotics can be very effective in fighting a urinary tract infection and can only be prescribed by a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner.
There are also steps you can take on your own to help relieve UTI symptoms including, increased hydration (to encourage increased purging of bacteria). In the case of a kidney infection, one common home remedy is applying a hot water compress to the location of the pain. This will help lower pressure affecting the bladder, relieving pain. The heat helps to both decrease the inflammation while also aiding in reducing the bacteria growth causing the infection.3 However, remember these steps are methods of relieving the symptoms only–not a means of treating the infection itself.
UTIs are a pain. Literally. But pain can be a good thing, if it gets you to take notice. Even better, if it gets you to take action.