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Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urethra (urethritis), the bladder (cystitis), and/or the kidneys (pyelonephritis). UTI's are caused by bacteria. The bacteria enter the bladder by traveling up the urethra. In general, the urethra is protected, but if the opening is irritated, bacteria can grow there. Common irritants are bubble bath, shampoo, fecal soiling, or irritation during sexual activity. UTI's are curable, but recurrence is common.

Various symptoms are possible. These may include:

  • painful urination
  • urinary frequency or urgency
  • daytime or nighttime wetting
  • foul-smelling urine
  • fever
  • pain in the lower abdomen or lower back near the kidneys
  • nausea and vomiting
  • blood in the urine
  • in males, urethral discharge

Treatment consists of:

  • Drink plenty of extra water; drinking cranberry juice may help.
  • For fever and pain relief, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as indicated.
  • For bladder spasm and pain relief, you may need medicine.
  • Take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
  • Avoid sexual intercourse until the symptoms are gone and all medicine is taken.

Further help and prevention:

  • Wash the genital area with water and a very mild soap every day and dry the area well.
  • Drink enough fluids each day to keep the urine light-colored.
  • After urinating or having a bowel movement, clean yourself by wiping from front to back. This prevents stool from being wiped into the urinary tract.
  • Don't put bubble bath, shampoo, or other soaps into the bath water. These may cause irritation. Shower instead of taking a bath.
  • Urinate when you feel the urge; do not "hold back."
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and spicy foods, which can irritate the urinary tract in some people.
  • Use a water-soluble lubricant such as K-Y jelly during sexual intercourse to lessen irritation.
  • Do not douche or use deodorants or sprays on the genital area.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.