If you have ever experienced a urinary tract infection or UTI, then you understand how terribly uncomfortable they are. Even describing a UTI as “uncomfortable” is an understatement for some who suffer from these infections frequently.

Unfortunately, UTIs are very common and if left untreated, they can evolve into something more serious like a kidney infection.

UTI symptoms

What is a UTI?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system [and it most often] involves the lower urinary tract area such as the bladder or urethra.” The CDC also mentions that a UTI can happen if bacteria from the skin or rectum enters the urethra, resulting in an infection of the urinary tract.

UTI Causes

There are a variety of reasons a UTI can occur. The CDC explains that possible risk factors include:

  • Having a UTI in the past or familial history of UTIs
  • Engaging in sexual activity
  • Dehydration
  • Changes in the “vaginal flora” or the bacteria lining the inside of the vagina due to menopause or the use of spermicides
  • Pregnancy
  • Age (usually older adults or young children are more prone to UTIs)
  • “Structural problems in the urinary tract,” like an enlarged prostate gland or kidney stones, according to the National Kidney Foundation
  • Compromised immune system

Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

UTI symptoms are usually easy to distinguish. According to Medical News Today, symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Painful or burning sensation while urinating
  • Urinating frequently, but in small amounts
  • Slow urinary stream
  • Discolored urine or blood in the urine
  • Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen or for women near the pubic bone
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul smelling urine

While these symptoms can affect men and women, the CDC and Mayo Clinic agree that they are more common in women. This is due to the female anatomy. As the CDC states, “[women are more likely to get a UTI] because their urethras are shorter and closer to the rectum” which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urethra.

Medical News Today says that even though a UTI in men is rare, they are likely to be complicated and spread more quickly to the kidneys and upper urinary tract.

So, How Long Does it Take a UTI to Turn into a Kidney Infection?

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of a UTI so you may catch the infection before it becomes a more complicated illness, such as a kidney infection.

As Healthline explains, “symptoms of a kidney infection usually appear two days after [a typical urinary tract] infection.” While the chances of kidney damage is low, it is not a good idea to leave these infections to worsen, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

In fact, even Medical News Today agrees, “people should not delay treatment [because if a UTI is untreated it] can lead to a life threatening kidney infection called emphysematous pyelonephritis. This infection increases a person’s risk of septic shock, bladder rupture, and death.”

UTI Kidney Infection Symptoms

UTIs can spread to the kidneys quickly. Luckily, there are some differentiating symptoms between a kidney infection and your run-of-the-mill UTI. The American Kidney Fund explains that the symptoms of a kidney infection may include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chills
  • Frequently urinating
  • Pain in the back, side, or groin area
  • Burning or pain while urinating
  • Pus or blood in the urine
  • Cloudy or foul odor in urine

Kidney infections are serious and may lead to hospitalization. Be sure to see a doctor right away if you think you have a UTI and it is not going away on its own or with medication to prevent complications.

UTI Treatment and Prevention

If you think you may have a UTI, chances are your doctor will want you to provide a urine sample to test for bacteria in your urine. Your provider will also ask you a few questions to see if you have a history of these infections.

The Mayo Clinic mentions that UTI and kidney infections are typically treated with antibiotics. Since these infections are so common, and it is not healthy to be on antibiotics all the time, it may be in your best interest to try to prevent these infections before they start.

Some of the more common ways to prevent a UTI or kidney infection according to Medical News Today are to:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Empty the bladder often and avoid holding it in too long
  • Clean the genitals thoroughly before and after having sex
  • Wipe front to back to prevent bacteria entering the urethra
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse
  • Avoid baths
  • Avoid scented douches and washes

Cranberry Juice UTI Evidence

It is not uncommon to hear that cranberry juice or cranberry products prevent and treat UTIs, but unfortunately this theory is unsupported by inconsistent evidence. As University of Michigan Health states, “pure cranberry juice, cranberry extract, or cranberry supplements may help prevent repeated UTIs in women, but the benefit is small.”

They continue to say that there is not enough verification that cranberry juice is a viable treatment or prevention option since the research to make that conclusion is minimal.

Where Do You Go If You Get a UTI?

If you think you may have a UTI or worse, a kidney infection, make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible. If you cannot get an appointment with your provider right away know that Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine will help you!

We treat UTIs as well as many other ailments. We have locations along Colorado’s Denver metro area. We’re open 7 days a week. Please visit our website for a list of our locations and schedule your visit today!