Urinary tract infections are very common, especially among women. The condition is usually caused by an intestinal bacterium that has travelled to the bladder through the urethra.
Women have a shorter urethra than men, so the infection is less common among men. In some cases, the infection is in the upper urinary tract. Such an infection is called pyelitis. Sometimes, the infection is caused by the abnormal structure of the urethra, which is why urinary tract infections that involve fever are studied with an ultrasound scan and other additional examinations.
Symptoms of urinary tract infection
Common symptoms of urinary tract infection include:
- frequent urination
- painful urination or a burning sensation when urinating
- throbbing in the lower abdomen
- fever (in Finnish) (pyelitis – symptoms related to urination might not be present)
- pain in the back and sides (pyelitis)
Treatment of urinary tract infections
If the symptoms clearly indicate a urinary tract infection and the type of infection is an irregular infection of the bladder in a female patient, the treatment is initiated without the need for any urine or blood tests. Treatment with antibiotics takes 3 to 5 days. If a female patient is pregnant, the symptoms do not clearly indicate urinary tract infection or fever is involved, a urine culture and possibly other laboratory tests are required. The presence of inflammatory markers in the blood is often tested. The possibility of sexually transmitted diseases must be ruled out.
If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, the treatment and the follow-up must be performed particularly carefully. Urinary tract infection in male patients is often associated with inflammation of the prostate (in Finnish), and its diagnosis and treatment are slightly different than in the case of female patients. Urinary tract infections in children (in Finnish) are also examined and treated particularly carefully, more often in a hospital environment than in the case of adult patients.
If an infection recurs three times in the space of one year in an otherwise healthy female patient, prophylactic medication can be administered for six or twelve months either with a daily antibiotic medication or a single dose of medication after intercourse. Intercourse can expose certain female patients to urinary tract infection, even though it is not a sexually transmitted disease. As the mucous membranes of older women become thinner and drier, more infections can occur. In such cases, topical treatment with oestrogen may be an alternative. Drinking cranberry or lingonberry juice can reduce the chance of reoccurrence of urinary tract infections.
Preventing urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infection can be prevented by taking care of adequate hygiene. Excessive washing of the private parts can promote urinary tract infections.
Vaccines and other immunotherapies
Immunotherapies and vaccines aim to improve mucosal defence. They are heavily researched due to the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance. Vaccines or sprays are not yet available.
If intercourse repeatedly causes infections, we recommend urinating immediately after intercourse. Another option is to use a single dose of an antibiotic after intercourse. If you have more than three urinary tract infections per year, a prophylactic treatment can be tested for a year or six months.
Help with urinary tract infections is easily and quickly available from the OmaMehiläinen app and the Digital Clinic online service or by calling Mehiläinen and booking an appointment with a general practitioner or a gynaecologist. If the infections recur, a visit to the gynaecologist for examinations is recommended.