Urinary tract infections or UTIs are most often caused by bacteria that get into the urinary bladder, which is part of the urinary tract. Urinary tract infections are also known as bladder infections and are common, especially in females. More than half of females will have UTI at some point in their life. UTIs are serious and if left untreated, are often painful and may lead to serious complications. With timely treatment, most UTIs are easy to treat with prescribed antibiotics.
Recurrent UTIs often occur due to lack of hygiene, an underlying health condition, or due to incomplete or improper treatment of previous UTIs. Recurrent UTIs can be very harmful as they can seriously impact the kidneys. A female should undergo proper treatment if she has recurrent UTIs. Symptoms of a recurrent UTIs include:
- frequent urination
- a burning sensation while urinating (dysuria)
- bloody or dark urine
- pain in the kidneys
- pain in the bladder or lower abdomen region
If the recurrent UTI spreads to the kidneys, it might cause the following symptoms:
- a high fever, over 101°F (38°C)
- mental disorientation
Risk factors for recurrent UTI vary with age. Before menopause, the most common risk factors for recurrent UTI in females are sexual intercourse and use of spermicides. It is thought that sexual intercourse increases the risk of UTIs. Gynecologists advise females to urinate after sex which can potentially flush out the bacteria and reduce the risk of UTIs. Spermicides can kill lactobacilli, the good bacteria in the vagina, which can make it easier for E. coli and other bacteria causing UTIs to move in.
After menopause, some physical and hormonal changes involuntarily set the stage for UTIs. The numbers of healthy bacteria lactobacilli in the vagina naturally decline after menopause. The urinary bladder also contracts less strongly after menopause, making it more difficult to empty the bladder completely.
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In both premenopausal and postmenopausal females, genes play a role as well in the case of recurrent UTIs. Having a mother or sibling who has recurrent UTIs is also a risk factor.
Also Read– How can you Prevent UTIs
What are the complications of a recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) in females?
Females who suffer from recurrent UTIs are likely to experience certain complications. Recurrent urinary tract infections may eventually cause the following complications-
- kidney infections, kidney disease, or other permanent kidney damage, especially in young females
- sepsis (a life-threatening complication caused due to infection)
- septicemia (a condition in which the bacteria has entered the bloodstream)
- increased risk of premature delivery or of having a baby with low birth weight
Treatment for recurrent urinary tract infections
A course of antibiotics prescribed by a doctor after diagnosis is the primary treatment for UTIs.
However, in the case of recurrent UTIs, the doctor may prescribe long-term (for more than one week) and low-dose medicines after the initial symptoms subside. Timely treatment of UTIs help in preventing recurrent UTIs.
In addition to antibiotics, the doctor may also suggest the female to her urinary system more closely, maintain intimate hygiene, and always urinate after sex. Females with recurrent urinary tract infections might be suggested regular urine tests for a while to check for infections.
If recurrent UTIs occur with menopause, the female may be suggested to consider vaginal estrogen therapy Vaginal estrogen therapy can limit the risk for future recurrent UTIs.
What can happen if a UTI is left untreated?
Untreated recurrent UTIs are likely to cause problems and complications in the future. If treated right away, a urinary tract infection is not likely to damage the urinary tract or kidneys. But if the recurrent UTI is not treated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and also other parts of the body. The most common symptoms of kidney infection caused due to recurrent UTI are fever and pain in the back (where the kidneys are located). In some cases of recurrent UTIs, the infection can spread to the bloodstream, which is rare but life-threatening. Treatment for recurrent UTI is necessary as if not treated in time, recurrent UTI can cause serious and even life-threatening complications.
Speak to an expert gynecologist to get proper and timely treatment for recurrent UTIs.