According to WebMD, approximately one in two women will contract a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their life, and around one in five women will experience at least a second UTI over the course of their lifetime. Conversely, only about 20 percent of diagnosed UTIs are experienced by men — and since male UTIs are generally caused by prostate problems, (whereas women can contract UTIs from simply having sex, taking a lot of baths, or wearing tight-fitting pants) UTIs in young men are pretty rare. But how do you know if you have a UTI, and what causes them in the first place?
Well, UTIs in women occur whenever bacteria gets into the urethra and then travels up to the bladder, so they’re basically bladder infections — and while this may not sound like that big of a deal, UTIs can travel from your bladder to your kidneys and cause serious damage. Plus, they’re extremely uncomfortable.
If you’ve never had a urinary tract infection, then you should consider yourself pretty lucky — UTIs are the absolute worst. But if you’ve never had a UTI before, (and sometimes even if you have) it can be hard to tell what’s going on down there until your infection becomes too painful to question, and you’re forced to schedule a potentially expensive doctor’s appointment and pay for expensive antibiotics. But if you think you might have a UTI, you should make an appointment to see your doctor immediately, because a UTI will not get better on it’s own.
Here are five signs you might have a UTI.
- It Burns When You Pee
Sometimes pee burns, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a UTI — it could also be a sign of an STD. But if your pee feels like a stream of hellfire that’s slowly trickling out of your urethra, then you probably have a urinary tract infection. This burning sensation happens because UTIs cause the linings of our bladders and urethras to become inflamed and irritated, which in turn causes the muscles in our bladders to spasm — and, surprise, this leads to even more irritation. On top of that, we actually have nerve fibers just beneath the surface of our bladder linings — so if the lining of your bladder is irritated, that’s going to affect those nerves, too.
Once your UTI has reached this point, you must see your doctor — but drinking plenty of water and cranberry juice (as long as it’s all natural, no sugar added, cranberry juice) won’t hurt, either.
- You Feel Like You Have To Pee Constantly — But Almost Nothing Comes Out
Urinary tract infections will make you feel like you have to pee literally the second you finish peeing, and the constant pressure can be downright painful — especially since nothing often comes out. This sign of a UTI, like the one above, is also due to the fact that your bladder and urethra are going to be extremely irritated until your infection is dealt with.Swearing off caffeine and alcohol until you’re well is one way to keep from further irritating your bladder, and it should make your UTI symptoms slightly easier to deal with. You should also know that, unfortunately, you need to urinate as much as possible when you have a UTI. So, even if it feels like you’re constantly in the bathroom for the duration of your infection, use the bathroom whenever you feel the urge, even if nothing much is coming out.
- Your Back & Stomach Hurt
If you’re feeling an aching pain or pressure in your tummy or lower back, particularly if it’s paired with the symptoms we’ve already discussed, then what you’re experiencing is most likely from the UTI-caused inflammation of your bladder — but it could also mean your infection has reached your kidneys. Whatever the case may be, you should make an appointment with your doctor ASAP. While you’re waiting to be treated, using a heating pad and taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen should help dull the pain.
- Your Urine Is Discolored Or Smelly
The whole reason we contract UTIs in the first place is because, somehow, bacteria finds it’s way up our urethras and into our bladders — and this bacteria turns our pee extra gross. So if you notice your pee is cloudy, dark, bloody, or stinky, then you need to drink some water and see your primary care physician at their next availability. Don’t ignore this sign of a UTI, because while even healthy urine isn’t exactly delightful to behold, your urine should definitely not be dark, bloody, or smell bad enough to make you sick.
- You Have A Fever & Chills
If you have a UTI, your body is going to try fighting off the infection on it’s own, and because of this, fever and chills can accompany a urinary tract infection. So if you’re experiencing these symptoms along with the other UTI symptoms on this list, you need to take your UTI seriously: When fever and chills accompany a burning sensation during urination, discolored urine, frequent urination, and back or abdominal pain, it’s generally a sign that your UTI has spread to your kidneys. Don’t underestimate the damage a UTI can do to your kidneys; speaking as someone who’s worked in dialysis, I cannot stress how precious your kidneys really are.