What is a chronic urinary tract infection?
Chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) are long-term urinary tract infections that do not react to treatment or are repeated over and over again. They may either continue to affect your urinary tract, provided they get the proper treatment, or they may return after treatment.
Your urinary tract is the path of urination. It includes the following organs:
- Your kidneys filter the blood and excrete your garbage in the urine.
- Your ureters are tubes which carry urine from the kidneys into the bladder.
- You have a bladder that collects and stores urine.
- Your urethra is a fibrous tube which carries urine from the bladder to the exterior of your body.
A UTI may affect any part of the urinary tract. When an infection occurs only in your bladder, it is usually a minor disease that can be easily treated. However, if it affects your kidneys, you may have serious health complications, and may even require hospitalization.
Although UTI may happen to anybody at any age, but they are more common in women. Actually, you know, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) estimates that one in five young adult women has repetitive UTIs.(1)
What are the symptoms of a chronic urinary tract infection?
Symptoms of a chronic urinary tract infection involving your bladder include:
- frequent urination
- bloody or dark urine
- feeling of burning during urination.
- pain in the kidneys, in other words in the lower back or under the ribs.
- pain around the bladder.
If the UTI spreads to your kidneys, this may result in:
- high fever, above 101°F (38°C)
- mental disorientation
What are the causes of chronic urinary tract infections?
UTI is the result of a bacterial infection. In the majority of cases, bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra, Then they split into the bladder. It is useful to put an end to urinary and urethral infections to better understand how they grow.
E coli is a common cause of bladder infections, referred to as cystitis. E coli usually lives in the intestines of healthy individuals and animals. Normally, this does not cause any problems. However, if it gets out of the bowel and enters the urinary tract, it may cause an infection.
This generally occurs when very small or even microscopic pieces of faeces enter the urine tract. It could happen during sexual relations. For example, that can happen if you switch between anal and vaginal sex without proper cleansing between the two. Anal sex significantly raises your risk of UTI. Bladder infections may also develop from backrest toilet water or by wiping from the rear to the front. Foamy urine may also be a concern.
Also known as urethritis, urethral infections may be caused by bacterial infections like E coli. Urethritis may also be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but this is not common. STIs include:
Who is at risk for a chronic urinary tract infection?
Chronic UTI is especially common in females. This is due to differences in male and female anatomy.
Firstly, the urethra is near the rectum in females. This makes it easier for rectal bacteria to reach the urethra, especially if you wipe the back to the front rather than the front to the back. This is why girls frequently have UTIs. They don’t know how to wipe properly.
Second, women have shorter urethras than men. This means that bacteria need to move a shorter distance to get into the bladder, where they can increase in number and more easily cause infection.
There are some lifestyle factors that may put you at additional risk for developing a chronic UTI, such as using a diaphragm during intercourse. The diaphragms grow against the urethra, making it harder to drain your bladder completely. Urine that does not bleed out has a greater chance of developing bacteria.
Another example is the constant change in vaginal bacterial composition. This may improve your chances of obtaining a chronic UTI. If you use one of these products on a regular basis, you change your vaginal bacteria:
- vaginal douches
- some oral antibiotic medications.
Men are significantly less likely than women to develop acute or chronic ITUs. The most common reason for men to develop chronic UTIs is prostate hypertrophy. When the prostate widens, the bladder does not empty completely, which can result in bacterial growth.
Men and women who have problems with bladder muscular function, known as neurogenic bladder, are also likely to get chronic UTIs due to urine retention. This may occur as a result of an injury to the bladder nerves or spinal cord.
Menopause may cause similar conditions in certain women. Menopause results in hormonal changes which may cause changes in vaginal bacteria. This may improve your chances of developing chronic UTIs. There are also additional risks of UTI among older adults.
How is a chronic urinary tract infection diagnosed?
If you have a chronic UTI, you probably have a history of UTI.
Carrying out laboratory tests on a urine sample is the most common UTI diagnostic method. A health care professional will microscopically analyze the urine sample for signs of bacteria.(2)
In a urine culture test, a technologist deposits a urine sample in a tube to promote the growth of bacteria. At the end of one to three days, they will examine the bacteria for the best treatment.
If your physician suspects renal damage, they can direct X-rays and kidney scans. These imaging machines take pictures of pieces inside your urinary system.
If you have recurrent UTI, your doctor may need to carry out a cystoscopy. In this process, they are going to use a cystoscope which is a long, thin tube with a lens at the end used to look inside your urethra and bladder. Your doctor will seek out any abnormalities or problems that could cause repetition or reccuring UTI.
How is a chronic urinary tract infection treated?
The most important treatment for UTI is taking antibiotics over a week.
However, if you have chronic UTI, your doctor may probably recommend, in the long run, low-dose antibiotics for more than a week after the initial symptoms come down. In many cases, it keeps the symptoms from recurring. Your doctor may also recommend a treatment where you take antibiotics after each time you have sex.
In addition to antibiotics, your doctor will want you to take a closer look at your urinary tract. For example, they may suggest that you take regular home urinalysis tests to see if you have infections.
If your symptoms do not go away even with antimicrobial therapy (such as antibiotics), The American Urological Association (AUA) tells your doctor to repeat the urinary culture test.
If your chronic UTI happens with menopause, you can consider vaginal estrogen therapy. This can control your risk of obtaining UTIs in the future, although it has certain dilemmas. Be sure to speak to your doctor about this.
If you have an active infection, you may feel burning while you are urinating. Your physician may recommend a painkiller to numb your bladder and urethra. It will decrease the burning sensation.
Your doctor may also recommend other medicines for treatment which are not antimicrobial-based.
Some studies suggest that drinking cranberry juice every day can help reduce recurrence in people with chronic urinary tract infections. Further research requires to be done, but it can not hurt if you like the taste. Here is a great choice of cranberry juice. Check with your doctor first if you are taking anticoagulant medicines.
Another natural remedy that may assist in treating a UTI is to drink enough water. Drinking sufficient water may help dilute your urine and eliminate bacteria through it.
Putting a heating pad or a bottle of warm water on your bladder can relieve the pain. There are more ways to treat an UTI without antibiotics as well.
What are the complications of a chronic urinary tract infection?
Persons suffering from chronic UTI may experience complications. Repeated bladder infections can gradually lead to:
- kidney infections, renal disease and other permanent renal damage, especially in young children.
- sepsis, that is a dangerous and life-threatening complication as a result of the infection.
- septicemia, that is a state where bacteria have infected the blood.
- increased chances of giving birth prematurely or having low-weight babies at birth.
What is the long term viewpoint?
Urinary tract infections cause irritation and pain. Most chronic UTIs will heal with long-term antibiotic treatment, but monitoring for additional symptoms is essential since chronic UTIs usually recur. Persons with UTIs should monitor their body and seek urgent treatment with the appearance of a new infection. Treating the infection early reduces the risk of more serious and prolonged complications.
How can I prevent a chronic urinary tract infection?
If you are likely to experience recurrent UTIs, be sure to:
- urinating as often as necessary (in particular after sexual activity)
- wipe from forward to aft after urinating.
- Drink plenty of water to remove bacteria from the body.
- drink cranberry juice each day.
- wear cotton undergarments.
- Never wear tight pants.
- prevent the use of diaphragms and spermicides for contraception.
- Avoid drinking liquids that can irritate the bladder (such as coffee, citrus drinks, soda, alcohol)
- use lubrication while having sex, if necessary.
- prevent bubble baths.
- Periodically wash the foreskin if you are not circumcised.