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Abdominal Problems

Urinary Tract Infections

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

The urinary tract is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter the blood, and the waste products from the blood become urine. The ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder holds the urine until the urine is expelled through the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).

Urinary tract infections (UTIs), including bladder infections (cystitis) and kidney infections (pyelonephritis), are generally caused by bacteria that are normally present in the digestive system. Females get UTIs more often than males do.

Infections can occur in any of the structures of the urinary tract.

Early symptoms of a UTI may include burning or pain during urination and itching or pain in the urethra. There may also be discomfort in the lower abdomen or back and a frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine. The urine may be cloudy or reddish in colour and may have an unusual odour.

Chills and fever may also be present if the infection is severe, especially if it has spread to the kidneys. Men with symptoms similar to those caused by a UTI may have an infection of the prostate gland or the epididymis (the tube that transports sperm from the testicle). See Prostatitis on See Prostate Infection (Prostatitis) and Testicular Problems on See Testicular Problems.

Men who have enlarged prostates, women who have had multiple pregnancies, people with kidney stones or diabetes, and those who are paralyzed from the waist down may be at higher risk for chronic urinary tract infections.

Other causes of irritation to the genital area that may be associated with UTIs include having sexual intercourse, using a diaphragm for birth control, wearing tight pants, riding a bike, using perfumed soaps and powders, or even eating spicy foods.

If urinary pain or vaginal burning and redness occur in a young girl, consider the possibility of an allergy to bubble bath or soap. Urinary pain or vaginal burning may also be a

symptom of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexual abuse. If you are concerned about sexual abuse of a child, call your doctor.

Prevention

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  • Drink plenty of fluids; water is best. Aim for at least 2 L (2 qt) per day.

  • Urinate frequently.

  • Females should wipe from front to back after going to the toilet. This will reduce the spread of bacteria from the anus to the urethra. Teach young girls this habit during toilet training.

  • Avoid douching, and don't use vaginal deodorants or perfumed feminine hygiene products.

  • Wash the genital area once a day with plain water or mild soap and water. Rinse well and dry the area thoroughly.

  • Drink extra water before sexual intercourse and urinate promptly afterwards. This is especially important if you tend to get UTIs.

  • Wear cotton underwear, cotton-lined pantyhose, and loose clothing.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages, which can irritate the bladder.

  • Drinking cranberry and blueberry juice may protect against UTIs, especially in females.

Home Treatment

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Start Home Treatment at the first sign of genital irritation or painful urination. A day or so of self-care may eliminate minor symptoms. However, if your symptoms last longer than 1 day or worsen despite Home Treatment, call your doctor. Because the organs of the urinary tract are connected, untreated UTIs can spread, which may lead to kidney infections and other serious problems.

  • Drink extra fluids (think in terms of litres) as soon as you notice symptoms and for the next 24 hours. This will help dilute the urine, flush bacteria out of the bladder, and decrease irritation.

  • Urinate frequently and follow the other tips outlined in Prevention.

  • Check your temperature twice daily. Fever may indicate a more serious infection.

  • A hot bath may help relieve pain. Avoid using bubble bath and harsh soaps. Apply a heating pad over your genital area to help relieve the pain. Never go to sleep with a heating pad in place.

  • Avoid sexual intercourse until symptoms improve. Do not use a diaphragm. It may put pressure on your urethra and slow down or prevent complete emptying of the bladder.

  • Drink cranberry juice and/or blueberry juice.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If painful urination occurs with any of the following symptoms:

    • Fever of 38.3°C (101°F) or higher and chills.

    • Inability to urinate when you feel the urge.

    • Pain in the back, side, groin, or genital area.

    • Blood or pus in the urine.

    • Unusual vaginal discharge.

    • Nausea and vomiting.

  • If symptoms get worse despite Home Treatment.

  • If symptoms do not improve after 24 hours of Home Treatment.

  • If you are pregnant or have diabetes and you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

  • If you suspect that your child has a urinary tract infection or has been sexually abused.

    Blood in the Urine

    A blow to the kidneys, kidney stones, excessive running, or a urinary tract infection can cause blood in the urine. Blood in the urine can be a sign of a serious illness and should always be discussed with a health professional.

    Eating foods such as beets, blackberries, and foods containing red artificial food colourings can temporarily colour the urine pink or red.

    Hepatitis

    Hepatitis means "liver inflammation." Viruses cause hepatitis A, B, and C, the most common types of hepatitis.

    Most people in North America get hepatitis A after having intimate contact with someone who is infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Large groups of people can become infected with HAV if someone who has hepatitis A prepares food for them. HAV infection goes away without medical treatment, causing no long-term problems.

    The hepatitis B virus (HBV) lives in blood and other body fluids. It is commonly spread during sexual contact and when people share needles to inject drugs. A pregnant woman who is infected with HBV can pass the virus to her baby. Young people who become infected with HBV are more likely to develop chronic HBV infection and long-term liver problems than are people who become infected later in life.

    The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread when HCV-infected blood enters a person's body. Blood transfusions were once a common means of spreading HCV. The virus is also spread among people who share

    needles to inject drugs. Many people develop chronic HCV infection, which can lead to severe liver damage after many years.

    Hepatitis symptoms are similar to flu symptoms. They include nausea, headache, sore muscles, and fatigue. Some people have pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. Jaundice may develop, causing the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow and making the urine dark. Call a health professional if you develop hepatitis symptoms or if you have had intimate contact or shared needles or other "drug works" with someone who has hepatitis. Because all 3 types of viral hepatitis have similar symptoms, blood tests are needed to determine which hepatitis virus is causing the infection.

    Vaccines can prevent hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. If you are exposed to HAV or HBV before you have been vaccinated, getting a shot of immune globulin is likely to keep you from becoming infected. Drug treatment is available for people with chronic HBV or HCV infection who are likely to develop liver problems.

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