Frequent infections require doctor’s visit
Submitted by: Marc C. Gittelman, M.D.
Submitted on: July 5, 2005
Q: I almost always get urinary tract infections. Could there be something wrong?
A: Urinary tract infections (UTI) are most common in younger women and postmenopausal women, and an uncomplicated bladder infection once a year is no cause for alarm. When women begin to have more frequent infections a medical evaluation may be needed. For men, even one urinary tract infection should require a trip to your physician.
Signs of a urinary infection include burning during urination, severe frequency of urination, a sense of bladder pressure and the feeling that the bladder just won’t empty completely. For some women these symptoms can be severe and even disabling, with severe cases causing blood in the urine and fever. A high fever and associated back pain is considered a medical emergency because there may be signs of a kidney infection.
Treatment of UTIs is quite simple. Your clinician is likely to prescribe a three- to five-day course of antibiotics and often a medication to ease off the urinary irritation.
Infections in younger women are often due to sexual activity. Preventative steps include good hygiene, voiding after sex, and your clinician may consider the use of a low dose “prophylactic” antibiotic within an hour of sexual activity to help decrease the risk of a urinary infection. Postmenopausal women lose some of their protection against infections when their estrogen levels decrease. Sometimes the use of a simple topical estrogen cream can be helpful to prevent infections for these women.
A condition called cystitis can mimic urinary infections, causing women to feel bladder irritation despite their urine remaining clean. I will talk about this in a later column, but evaluation by your physician is well worthwhile.