What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
Most women, at some time of their lives, have experienced a urinary tract infection. This type of infection usually affects the bladder and urethra, the tube that drains the bladder. Although men can also get bladder infections (called “cystitis”), their urethra is much longer and bacteria are much less likely to reach the bladder.
Frequency of urination is the most common symptom, although painful urination is not uncommon. Some people notice that the stream of urine is somewhat hesitant (hesitancy) or may feel an urgent need to go without warning (urgency). If not treated, a bladder infection may possibly ascend to the kidneys, causing an infection known as “pyelonephritis”.
Preventative Medicine and Urinary Tract Infections
Preventative medicine plays a large role in decreasing the likelihood of this problem. Basic hygienic method, such as wiping from front to back after urinating, is important. So is urinating right after an episode of sexual intercourse. Wear cotton undergarments to allow better air circulation in areas that might otherwise encourage bacterial or fungal growth. Adequate fluid intake, especially cranberry juice if available, is also a key to remaining free of bladder issues. Never postpone urinating when you feel a strong urge to do so.
Besides frequency of urination and a sensation of urgency, you may feel a burning sensation during the act. Evaluation of a urine sample might reveal it to be cloudy, blood-tinged or foul-smelling. A vague discomfort in the middle of the pelvis is also common. Once the infection reaches the kidney, other symptoms will become manifest. You will see fever and chills and an area of pain on the side of your back (your flank) below the last rib. Most likely, it will be noticeable only on one side.
Treatment revolves around the vigorous administration of fluids. Lots of water, for example, will help flush out the infection by decreasing the concentration of bacteria in the affected organs. Antibiotics are another mainstay of therapy, commonly Cipro (Fish-Flox), Bactrim (Bird Sulfa), or Macrodantin. An over-the-counter medication that eliminates the painful urination seen in urinary infections is Phenazopyridine (also known as Pyridium, Uristat, Azo, etc.). Don’t be alarmed if your urine turns reddish-orange, it is an effect of the drug and is temporary. Vitamin C supplements are thought to reduce the concentration of bacteria in the urine, and should also be considered.
A few natural remedies for urinary tract infections include:
· Garlic or garlic oil (preferably in capsules).
· Echinacea extract or tea.
· Goldenrod tea with vinegar (1 to 2 tablespoons),
· Uva Ursi (1 tablet).
· Cranberry tablets (1 to 3 pills).
Take any one of these remedies three times per day.
Another home remedy is to take one Alka-Seltzer tablet and dissolve it in 2 ounces of warm water. Pour directly over the urethral area.
One more alternative that may be helpful is to perform an external massage over the bladder area with 5 drops of lavender essential oil (mixed with castor oil) for a few minutes. Then, apply a gentle heat source over the area; repeat this 3 to 4 times daily. The combination of lavender/castor oil and warmth may help decrease bladder spasms and pain.