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Southern California Urology Institute
Gary Bellman, M.D., F.R.C.S.
Board Certified Urologist
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Urinary Tract Infections in Women

By: Dr. Gary Bellman on May 22, 2015, 5:03 pm

If you’ve ever experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) you know immediately the burning pain, the constant and intense urge (but inability) to urinate, and the uncomfortable ache in your lower abdomen.  These infections are uncomfortable at best, and at worst can lead to severe pain and kidney infections.  About half of all women will have at least one UTI in her lifetime, while many women suffer through several infections throughout their lifetime.  Women are particularly susceptible to urinary tract infections or UTI.  This is because women have a shorter urinary tract than men.  The good news: Infections are easily treated with antibiotics.  However, some women seem prone to recurrent UTIs than others and for them it can be a frustrating battle.

What causes urinary tract infections?
The most common cause of UTIs are bacteria from the bowel that live on the skin near the rectum or in the vagina, which can spread and enter the urinary tract through the urethra.  Once these bacteria enter the urethra, they travel upward, causing infection in the bladder and sometimes other parts of the urinary tract.

Sexual intercourse is a common cause of urinary tract infections because the female anatomy can make women more prone to urinary tract infections.  During sexual activity, bacteria in the vaginal area are sometimes massaged into the urethra.  Women who change sexual partners or begin having sexual intercourse more frequently may experience bladder or urinary tract infections more often than women who are celibate or in monogamous relationships.  Although it is not common, some women get a urinary tract infection every time they have sex.

Another cause of bladder infections or UTI is waiting too long to urinate.  The bladder is a muscle that stretches to hold urine and contracts when the urine is released.  Waiting too long past the time you first feel the need to urinate can cause the bladder to stretch beyond its capacity.  Over time, this can weaken the bladder muscle.  When the bladder is weakened, it may not empty completely and some urine is left in the bladder.  This may increase the risk of urinary tract infections or bladder infections.

Other factors that also may increase a woman's risk of developing UTI include pregnancy having UTIs as a child, menopause or diabetes.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?
Symptoms of a UTI or bladder infection are not easy to miss and include a strong urge to urinate, which is followed by a sharp pain or burning sensation in the urethra when the urine is released.  Most often very little urine is released and the urine that is released may be tinged with blood. The urge to urinate recurs quickly and soreness may occur in the lower abdomen, back, or sides.

When bacteria enter the ureters and spread to the kidneys, symptoms such as back pain, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting may occur, as well as the previous symptoms of lower urinary tract infection.

Proper diagnosis is vital since these symptoms also can be caused by other problems; only your physician can make the distinction and make a correct diagnosis.

How is a diagnosis made?
A urine sample is usually collected to perform the following tests:

Urinalysis is done to look for white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria, and to test for certain chemicals, such as nitrites in the urine.  Most of the time, your doctor or nurse can diagnose an infection using a urinalysis.

Urine culture may be done to identify the bacteria in the urine to make sure the correct antibiotic is being used for treatment.  CBC and a blood culture may also be done.​

Usually the first course of action for treating a UTI is antibiotics; however, there are natural compounds that Dr. Bellman reccommends for every woman-- two of these compounds are cranberry and D-mannose.  To help maintain urinary tract health and to prevent an infection from occurring in the first place, consider taking a cranberry and D-mannose supplement. ​


A UTI is nothing to ignore.  If left untreated, it can progress into a kidney infection. If you think you have an infection, please set an appointment with us today!

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