Why does it burn when you urinate?
You’re at work and you notice that you keep having to go to the bathroom, but when you get there, you can only go a small amount of urine. As the day wears on, you notice that you are having pain in your lower abdomen and it burns when you urinate. What is wrong with you? Most likely a urinary tract infection.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is when bacteria enters your body through the urethra (the tube that connects your bladder to the outside) and multiplies in the bladder causing an infection. This infection can affect any part of your urinary system, such as kidneys (where urine is made by filtering waste out of the blood stream), ureters (the tube that connects your kidneys to the bladder), bladder or urethra. Typically, most infections involve the lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra). Due to anatomy, women are more likely than men to get a UTI since the urethra is shorter and bacteria has less distance to travel to cause an infection.
How a UTI presents depends on the area of the urinary system that is affected. Most commonly, you will experience a strong, persistent urge to urinate, burning sensation when urinating, discolored urine (bloody/pink-tinged or cloudy), strong smelling urine, only being able to pass small amounts of urine and pelvic pain. If the infection travels through the urinary system to your kidneys, you could also have back pain, fever, nausea/vomiting, shaking and chills. Besides being female, some other risk factors to having a UTI are sexual activity, certain types of birth control (diaphragms and spermicidal agents), menopause, urinary tract abnormalities, blockages in the urinary tract (kidney stones or enlarged prostate), suppressed immune system, catheter use or recent urinary procedure. Please see Fast Facts for a list of symptoms and risk factors for UTI.
Antibiotics are the most common treatment for UTI and the type given is specific to the bacteria causing the infection. In order to determine this, you will need to give a urine sample. You will also be given a prescription for a pain medicine that helps to numb your bladder and reduce the burning sensation (a side effect of this medicine is that it can turn your urine an orange/red color). Some others things you can do to help relieve the symptoms are using a heating pad over your lower abdomen, drinking plenty of water and avoiding drinks that can irritate your bladder, such as coffee, alcohol or soft drinks that contain citrus juice or caffeine. On a side note, many people believe that cranberry juice helps if you have UTI, this has not been proven to be the case. There is no harm in drinking it if you would like, just be careful if you are on warfarin, aspirin, blood-thinning medications or medications that affect your liver as cranberry juice can impact these.
There are several things that you can do to prevent getting a UTI. The first, and most important, is to drink plenty of water. By staying hydrated, you will need to urinate more frequently and this will help to flush bacteria out of your body. It is important to remember to empty your bladder soon after intercourse or being in a whirlpool tub. If you are a female, wipe front to back, avoid irritating feminine products (deodorant sprays/powders) and change your birth control method. All of these are key to helping reduce your chance of getting a UTI. Please note that even if you do all of these things, you still might get an infection.
Having a urinary tract infection is not pleasant, but it can easily be managed and you’ll be feeling better soon. If you are concerned that you might have a UTI, please see your physician. If you would like further information, please visit the American Urological Association at http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults