It's usually pretty easy to tell when you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), right? I mean, it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that you're peeing three times as often as you normally do, and every time you do go, it basically feels like your urethra is being stabbed with a thousand tiny, sharp knives. But, what if you don't experience that pain? What are some of the other, more subtle symptoms that may indicate you have a UTI?
Unfortunately, UTIs are one of the most common infections among women specifically (lucky us), because of our anatomical makeup. A woman's urethra is closer to the anus opening, which, to put it bluntly, means it's easier to transfer harmful bacteria from one hole to another, and subsequently develop a UTI.
As one of the most common types of infection, accounting for approximately eight million doctor visits a year, it's important to know all the potential signs of a UTI -- especially the uncommon ones.
Elite Daily spoke with OBGYN Dr. Brian Levine to learn more about some of these subtle red flags.
Although the most common symptom of a UTI is frequent urination, Dr. Levine says there's a little more to it than just that.
When you have a UTI and you go to the bathroom, you may notice your urine looks a little cloudier than usual, and there may even be a foul odor accompanying it.
Dr. Levine tells Elite Daily,
Cloudy urine is due to white blood cells, typically in the urine, as well as mixed with bacteria. So that's why it looks cloudy. And then blood [can also be] in the urine, [so] it all comes together. If you irritate the bladder enough, it's going to bleed, like any other organ. Foul smelling urine is because [when] someone has bacteria growing in their urine, the urine smells funny and that again, is due to changing of the pH and the culture
He stresses the importance of actually looking at your pee before you flush, since, TBH, most of us really don't.
But, if you're lucky enough to not have any pain or discomfort with your UTI, looking into that toilet may be your only indication that something's wrong down there.
If you leave a UTI untreated, the infection can get much worse, and so can the symptoms.
Ignoring or failing to realize you have a UTI can cause the infection to spread from the bladder to the kidneys, and can possibly lead to something called pyelonephritis.
Pyelonephritis is a potentially organ- or life-threatening infection that can cause scarring in your kidneys' blood vessels. That newly located kidney infection is what produces pain in the mid or lower back, as well as the abdomen.
Dr. Levine explains,
By the time [the symptoms] get to lower back pain and abdominal pain, you have a pretty severe urinary tract infection. It's pretty advanced at that point. That means your bladder is very inflamed, and the kidneys are getting inflamed. That could be a life-threatening illness.
However, it's important to note here that UTIs are easily treated when you know what the symptoms are.
First of all, pay attention to your body, and watch out for all of these potential signs, both subtle and not-so-subtle. The earlier you can catch the infection, the better.
Head to your doctor, take some antibiotics, and the infection should clear up within about a week's time or so. In the meantime, to dull the pain a bit, eat some cranberries and drink plenty of water, and please, pee as soon as you need to.
Relieving your bladder can be inconvenient at times, I know, but so can an infection in your bladder -- or worse, your kidneys. Choose your battles wisely.