November 29, 2017

Urinary tract infections: Your questions answered by a nurse practitioner

Understanding urinary tract infections

Symptoms can mean different things for women and men. Here’s everything you need to know about urinary tract infection treatment and diagnosis.

Urinary tract infections symptoms can vary depending on your age. To help us better understand urinary tract infection treatment we sat down with Julie Pickering, a nurse practitioner at the Vanderbilt Health and Williamson Medical Center Walk-In Clinic in Franklin.

Question: What is a urinary tract infection?

Answer: Urinary tract infections are infections either in the bladder or the kidney. Most often we see people with the lower part of the infection, which is the cystitis or bladder infection. Those are treated with antibiotics. Most of the time people come in with complaints of painful urination, or are going too much or too little. Sometimes people even have blood in their urine. It’s really easy to diagnose.

Question: If you had painful urination for a day, would you want to be seen by a healthcare provider right away or should you wait a couple of days?

Answer: It depends on if it’s a male or female. Urinary tract infections in men are rare, so they would want to come in right away for that kind of pain because it could be something else like a sexually transmitted disease. For women, sometimes painful urination can go away on its own after drinking a bunch of fluids. If it lasts for more than a day or throughout the day or they’re just seeing the symptoms get worse, come in.

Question: How do you get rid of a UTI?

Answer: The treatment for how to get rid of a UTI is commonly a round of antibiotics. We usually get a urinalysis right away and we do a quick test to see what is causing it, and we’ll start patients on antibiotics. We send the urine off for a culture to the lab, which takes about two days to come back. Then with the culture, we can see if the antibiotic we put them on will cover that bacteria. Most of the time it does, but if it doesn’t, we can switch antibiotics as needed.

Question: Will antibiotics always work for urinary tract infections? What happens if they don’t?

Answer: If they don’t work, then you’d have to follow-up with a urologist to find out why is the infection continues happening. Sometimes it can be cancer-related, a tumor, or a prostate infection, or an STD that has not gotten resolved or proper treatment.

Question: Who would need to go to the ER, instead of a walk-in clinic, for these symptoms?
Answer: Anybody who is compromised, especially infants. With urinary tract infections in infants, we usually have to catheterize those little ones. With an emergency room specialized for pediatrics, they have more people and more hands on and it’s not as traumatizing. Elderly or chronically ill patients that are unable to give us a urine specimen, need to be catheterized as well. Most of those times, if those people have infections, they’ll require IV antibiotics. Also for elderly patients, they rarely have dysuria, or painful urination. Most of the time those patients will either start having confusion or not eating as well or just kind of feeling more tired. If that’s ever the case with an elderly person, she needs to be checked for a UTI.

Question: What else should people know about urinary tract infections?

Answer: It’s so important to stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids. You want to stay away from a lot of caffeine and spicy foods, because those can all contribute to developing a urinary tract infection.

Learn more

Vanderbilt Health operates a variety of walk-in clinics in Middle Tennessee, including some with Williamson Medical Center, to take care of everything from sprains and sport injuries to flu shots, fevers, coughs and rashes. Search locations and learn more about the conditions treated there.

If you do get sick, use our online flu tool to decide whether self-care at home or a visit to your healthcare provider is in order.