Department of Urology

February 23, 2022

When A UTI Gets Serious, You Need A Urologist

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are very common. Most common are simple bladder infections, also known as simple cystitis. About 10 in 25 women, and 3 in 25 men will suffer from a UTI at some point in their lifetime. While painful, they will generally clear up with a short course of antibiotics. However, in rare cases, UTIs can become very serious when the infection gets into the blood stream and affects the whole body. This is called Sepsis and can even be deadly. In these cases, you need a Urologist. Associate Professor, and our Director of Female Urology, Suzette E. Sutherland, MD, MS, FPMRS from the University of Washington in Seattle, commented on the dangers that UTIs can have in older patients, and the signs they should watch for in order to decrease the chance of developing sepsis.

In January of 2021, famous actor Tanya Roberts passed away due to sepsis, which reportedly started from a UTI. This news shocked thousands of people, causing concern and paranoia to some. Dr. Sutherland discussed this topic of UTI-related sepsis with Next Avenue Media, stating “It’s very likely that somebody might either have ignored the early warning signs of a UTI, thereby delaying appropriate antibiotic treatment, or have other medical issues that makes it harder for them to fight off infections, like a poor immune system, as an example”. Sutherland adds that most bladder infections are not severe and can be treated simply with a short course of oral antibiotics and aggressive hydration. But sepsis can be life-threatening and requires prompt treatment with strong intravenous (IV) antibiotics to get the systemic, whole-body infection under control.

Sutherland agrees that “If you feel there is something wrong, mask up and go to the doctor. The fear of getting one thing (COVID) is no reason to keep from getting other things checked out”. Although not always preventable, Sutherland provided many tips or measures you can take to avoid UTIs:

Drink plenty of liquids (approx. 2L/day), with at least half being water. Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you’ll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin. Your urine should have a light/pale yellow color – that’s how you know you are drinking enough.

Drink pure cranberry juice or take cranberry supplements with at least 35mg SOLUBLE PAC (proanthocyanidins). Although all studies are not conclusive, many note significant benefit for preventing UTIs when taken daily, and it is certainly not harmful.

Wipe from front to back. Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.

Empty your bladder soon after intercourse. This is nature’s way of flushing out the bladder. Drinking a full glass of water prior to or immediately after intercourse will help flush the bacteria.

Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, un-lubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth. If you are experiencing UTIs after sex, then consider a different method of birth control.

Vaginal estrogen supplementation. For postmenopausal women who don’t make estrogen anymore, a small, local (not systemic) dose of estrogen in the vaginal area will promote healthy tissue and healthy bacterial growth in the vagina, thereby reducing the risk of both vaginal and bladder infections.

Ensure good bowel health. Avoid constipation. Avoid diarrhea. A daily probiotic to promote digestive health can be beneficial too.

Even though most UTIs aren’t serious, they can still be very debilitating. Because of this it is important to understand the preventative measures you can take to minimize the number of UTIs you might get. It’s also important to know the risks that an untreated UTI can carry and know when to seek medical attention. If you are having problems with recurrent UTIs, or feel something is not quite right, you would benefit from seeing a specialist, such as a urologist. Don’t hesitate! We have plenty of staff eager to jump in and help you.