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5 Things You Need to Know About UTIs & Treatment at an Urgent Care

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI) – the second most common type of bacterial infection – you know how uncomfortable it can be. The relentless need to pee and the burning sensation when you do prompt you to consider the fastest option for relief.

While contacting your doctor might be your first inclination, did you know there are other convenient options – like visiting an urgent care center for same-day diagnosis and treatment, saving you time and hassle? Plus, understanding the root cause of infection and knowing how best to prevent it can help you avoid reoccurrences. Because, let’s face it, no one wants a UTI.

1. Women are 10x more likely to get a UTI than men

When it comes to developing a urinary tract infection, anatomy isn’t in a woman’s favor. Her urethra (the tube urine is released from) is shorter than a man’s, making it easier for bacteria to travel up to the bladder and multiply. That doesn’t mean that men don’t suffer from UTIs though. They do, especially as they age, but not at the same rate as women.

Statistics from the National Kidney Foundation show that 1 in 5 women will have at least one UTI in her lifetime. And unfortunately, once you get one, you’re more inclined to have another. Some women are also more prone to infection because of pregnancy and both perimenopause and menopause.

2. Sex may cause UTIs, but it’s not the only culprit

The urinary tract is designed to keep bacterial microorganisms out, but it’s not foolproof. Anything that upsets the natural flora of the urinary tract can lead to a urinary tract infection. Sex especially puts a woman at risk for developing a UTI, since during intercourse the urethra comes into contact with bacteria from the genital area or anus that can move into the urinary tract. In fact, almost 80% of premenopausal women with an infection have had sex within the previous 24 hours.

But there are other pre-existing conditions, activities, and products that can lead to a UTI. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Dehydration Drinking enough water, especially during hot summer months, can make the difference between flushing out the bacteria that can cause a UTI or not. 
  • Holding It – If you hold your urine for 6 hours or more, you could be putting yourself at greater risk for bacteria overgrowing in the bladder.
  • Constipation or Diarrhea – It’s often difficult to empty your bladder completely when you’re constipated, which means bacteria have time to grow and cause an infection. Conversely, bacteria from loose stool that’s excreted can also easily make its way into your urethra.
  • Kidney Stones – Because they can block your urinary tract and hold urine in, kidney stones give bacteria time to grow and can lead to a UTI.
  • Diabetes – For some people with uncontrolled diabetes, the bladder doesn’t empty as well as it should and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. In addition, high blood glucose levels can increase the odds of a UTI.
  • Hygiene Products – Since bacteria are more prone to grow in moist environments, it’s important to make sure you change your pad or tampon frequently when you have your period.
  • Birth Control – Hormone shifts from switching your birth control can lead to a fluctuation of the normal bacteria in your vagina, increasing your likelihood for a UTI. The use of diaphragms and spermicide can also make you more susceptible to an infection.

Other reasons you’re likely to develop a UTI involve urinary tract abnormalities, a spinal cord injury, nerve damage around the bladder, and having a shorter urethra than normal. Getting a urinalysis to examine the urine for the number of healthy red blood cells and healthy white blood cells, as opposed to bacteria counts in your urine, can help further determine a root cause of recurring UTIs. 

3. Irritation down there doesn’t necessarily mean a UTI

You’re likely to remember the symptoms of a UTI if you’ve experienced one. You have a frequent urge to pee – which often results in a minimal amount of urine – and any urine that is released causes a painful, burning sensation. You could also have discolored or foul smelling urine, or pressure in your lower abdomen, back or sides below your ribs. In the elderly, confusion can be the main symptom of a UTI. Such discomfort, however, may not indicate a urinary tract infection.  

Other diseases present similarly to a UTI. For example, yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis lead to vaginal itchiness, irregular discharge or blood in the urine (which is rare for a UTI to cause). At the onset, symptoms for sexually transmitted diseases can also be confused with those of UTIs. That’s why it’s important you seek professional medical advice when you start having symptoms you think are a urinary tract infection. If you do have a UTI, and you wait too long to receive treatment, it could lead to a more serious kidney and lower urinary tract infections.

4. You can visit an urgent care center for UTI treatment

It’s likely you trust your OB/GYN or primary care physician to help determine the best course of treatment when ailments arise. But demands for medical care can make it difficult for you to get in to see you doctor, not to mention if you develop symptoms for a urinary tract infection at a time when your physician’s office is closed.

Urgent care centers, like GoHealth Urgent Care, routinely treat UTIs. With extended hours and same-day walk-in appointments, it’s easy to get answers – and relief – from a healthcare professional. At a GoHealth Urgent Care center, we’ll perform a urine test, also known as a urinalysis, to determine if you do indeed have a UTI. On-site laboratories allow us to review urine cultures and ensure we prescribe, if necessary, the best course and type of antibiotic treatment for you.

If seeing your OB/GYN or primary care physician is not an option, and you’re wondering whether to go to an urgent care center or the emergency room, you should consider these differences. Emergency rooms are usually reserved for just that – emergency or life-threatening situations, like strokes, head trauma or difficulty breathing. UTIs, while painful, are not life-threatening, especially if caught and treated early. Plus, visiting an urgent care center for UTIs typically costs far less than an emergency room, and may be covered by your health insurance.

5. Some home remedies can help alleviate or prevent UTI pain

Unfortunately, UTIs rarely go away on their own – it’s the reason antibiotics are recommended as the primary treatment method. However, there are other home remedies that don’t require a doctor’s prescription and can be effective in helping to prevent a UTI from occurring in the first place:

  • Drink Water – Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends drinking six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day in order to flush bacteria out of your urinary tract. Fluids also help to dilute your urine, so bacteria doesn’t grow to begin with.
  • Avoid Bladder Irritants – Substances like coffee, alcohol and carbonated soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners can further irritate your bladder and make it harder for your flora to return to a normal state.
  • Get Vitamin C – Large amounts of Vitamin C makes your urine more acidic, which may prevent bacteria from growing. Eating foods like oranges, blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit and leafy greens or taking a Vitamin C supplement can help combat UTIs.
  • Apply Heat – Use a warm blanket or heating pad (on the low setting) to help soothe painful urination and more topical pain, or just the irritation in your pubic area. Avoid placing the heat source directly on your skin so as to not burn yourself.
  • Empty Your Bladder – Even though it might be a burden to constantly be running to the bathroom, every little bit of urine you remove helps. Emptying your bladder gets rid of some of the bacteria that are causing your UTI. If you regularly suffer from UTIs, you should aim to go to the bathroom more regularly.
  • Adopt Better Habits – Simple changes to your daily routine can help you recover from a UTI or prevent its development altogether. Make sure you urinate after having sex and wipe from front to back, especially after a bowel movement. Also, avoid fragranced feminine hygiene products, powers, sprays or douches, wear loose-fitted underwear and change out of sweaty workout clothes following exercise.
  • Cleanliness - Being sure to clean your genitals before sex and avoiding fragrant soaps or bubble baths.

Additional methods for treating and preventing UTIs have also been debated. While recent studies are inconclusive as to the benefits of drinking cranberry juice to prevent a UTI, once you get an infection, cranberry juice won’t help. Same goes for probiotics. Fermented products like kefir yogurts and kombucha might cultivate good vaginal flora, but more conclusive evidence is required.

 

Take-Away Points

 

The best course of action is to prevent infection before it even starts. Make small changes to your daily routine, like drinking enough water and eating foods high in fiber and rich in vitamin C. Also, reevaluate the products you use and the clothes you wear as they affect vaginal bacteria.

Should you feel the irritating symptoms of a UTI coming on, seek treatment from a medical professional – especially if you’re elderly, pregnant or have any compromising health conditions.

Because it’s easy to just walk into a GoHealth Urgent Care center, or schedule a visit online using the widget below, for UTI diagnosis and treatment, use urgent care as your go-to for a quick urine test and analysis. Then, you can get back to feeling like your normal, healthy self; faster and easier. 

 

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