When to worry about persistent UTIs

February 21, 2018 | by Amit Patel, MD

It’s no surprise that women are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs). It’s just how the female anatomy is made.  Since women have a shorter urethra, bacteria have a shorter distance to travel compared to men. Even though UTIs are more common in women, men can get them too.

A UTI can infect any part of your urinary system — kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. They are one of the most common types of infections and account for around 8.1 million visits to a doctor every year. 

The most common symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Pain, burning or stinging when you use the restroom
  • Hyperactive or overactive bladder (using the bathroom more than 8 times in 24 hours, including a couple times overnight)
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Uncontrollable leakage 
  • Cloudy urine, blood in your urine or urine that is red or pinkish
  • Urine with a strong, foul odor 

Your doctor can test your urine, determine if you have a urinary tract infection, and prescribe you an antibiotic to fight it. 

If you continue to notice blood in your urine or if your symptoms persist after a course of antibiotics for a UTI, it may be a sign of something more, like bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer symptoms are almost identical to those of a bladder infection. Because they share many related symptoms, the most important thing for you to do is keep track of how you are feeling. 

While UTIs are very common, blood in your urine is never normal. It is often the first sign of bladder cancer and for women, it can be easily misdiagnosed as menstruation or menopause. 

Just like a UTI, bladder cancer symptoms include: 

  • Having to urinate more than usual
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Feeling as if you need to go right away, even when the bladder is not full
  • Having trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream 

Smoking is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer, and causes about half of all bladder cancers in both men and women. Smokers are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than nonsmokers. 

Although screening tests are usually not recommended for people at average risk, bladder cancer can often be found early because it causes blood in the urine or other persistent symptoms. 

What’s important to remember is that if something doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t. If you notice blood in your urine or have any symptoms of a UTI, have your symptoms checked by your doctor. Cancer is treated most effectively when it is found early. 

Related blogs:

Detect cancer early with regular checkups and screenings 

Learn more about cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health. 


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