Urinary Tract Infections
I once knew a woman in her late forties or early fifties who complained of experiencing mild incontinence. At first she always made the very common comment; "I’ve had a couple of kids, what do you expect?" I was comfortable enough with this friend to explain to her a bit about incontinence and urge her to see a doctor. After a couple years of the incontinence getting progressively worse she finally did speak with her doctor about it. The doctor did a urine culture and the test results showed that my friend had a low-grade urinary tract infection (UTI). The doctor put her on a medication and the symptoms cleared up. This is just one example of why I’m always begging people "GO TO THE DOCTOR" about your incontinence, because sometimes (not always, but sometimes) it’s such a simple fix
A urinary tract infection is a very common infection in the bladder or urinary tract. It affects more women than men (about 40-50% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime). UTIs can be caused by many different types of bacteria, but E.coli is the most common, causing about 85% of UTIs. E.coli lives in the entire bowel, including the rectum and can cause a UTI when pushed into the urinary tract by wiping after a bowel movement from back to front, or even during intercourse. Other risk factors for UTIs include pregnancy, child birthing, use of catheters or a blockage of the urinary tract from kidney stones, a benign mass or an enlarged prostate.
Other symptoms that you may have a UTI include a burning sensation with urination, blood in the urine and cloudy or smelly urine. In more serious cases, you may experience a fever, chills, or vomiting. UTIs can travel upward and infect your kidneys too, causing lower back pain. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, go to your health care provider to have a urinalysis performed. This is a very simple test and all you have to do is pee in a cup- the lab will take care of the rest.
If your lab results do indicate a UTI, your doctor will most likely prescribe an antibiotic. Some home remedies you can try in conjunction with your doctor’s advice is drinking lots of water and using a heating pad. Some people claim that drinking cranberry juice, eating blueberries and/or taking vitamin C at the immediate onset of symptoms can help squelch the infection from the start. I actually take a cranberry extract herbal capsule every day to help stave off infection, as the cranberries, blueberries and vitamin C seem to be better shown to work as a preventative measure. To help prevent UTIs, you can also make sure you’re wiping from front to back after a bowel movement, urinate both before and after intercourse, and don’t use feminine sprays or scented bubble baths, which can irritate the area.
Urinary tract infections can be painful, and if left on their own can travel to the kidneys and become life-threatening. Even without the pain, there’s a small chance that if you’re experiencing mild incontinence it may be caused by a low-grade UTI. Once again, plenty of reasons to see a health care provider. However, once you do see your doctor, it’s YOUR responsibility to follow-up. If you are prescribed a medication that doesn’t seem to alleviate your symptoms, your doctor won’t know the medicine didn’t work unless you tell him or her. So go to your doctor, discuss your symptoms, follow their advice and report back to the doctor again!
Jasmine wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Incontinence.