Diabetes & UTI: What You Need To Know

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People with diabetes are no strangers to frequent urination. But while dashing to the restroom may already be part of your day-to-day, a urinary tract infection, or UTI, takes the discomfort to new, yet-more-maddening levels.

A UTI is associated with burning, pain, and tenderness while urinating. The urge to use the restroom is almost constant, but the act of doing so is painful, and you’ll probably feel like you have to pee again in approximately 15 seconds. But when you do return to the restroom, you produce little or no urine. It’s exasperating.

A UTI is, as the name suggests, an infection in the urinary tract, which is comprised of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, urethra, and (in men) the prostate. The majority of UTIs manifest in the bladder and are caused by bacteria.

UTIs and Diabetes

UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the United States, and over 50 percent of American women will deal with a UTI at least once in their lifetime. (Women are 10 times more likely to get a UTI than men.)

Type 2 diabetes increases risk even more—up to 60 percent more depending on the study. High blood sugar contributes to poor circulation, which means bacteria-killing white blood cells are less able to fight infection and prevent UTIs. And Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, also contributes to UTI risk. Nerve damage reduces the bladder’s ability to sense when it’s full, leading to incomplete elimination. Retained urine can breed bacteria.

Higher glucose levels in the urine may also promote bacteria growth, but UTIs and bladder voiding issues are common regardless of blood sugar control, and several studies have failed to correlate blood sugar levels and UTI risk.

Symptoms

UTIs range from asymptomatic to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Constantly feeling the need to urinate despite producing little to no urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Cloudy, dark, or bloody urine
  • Fever
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen

Lower UTIs, that affect the uretra and bladder, are much more common than upper UTIs, which affect the ureters and kidneys. Upper UTIs are more severe and are more associated with fever and pain in the lower back and abdomen.

Treatment

UTI treatment is the same in those with and without diabetes. Diagnosis usually involves a urine test, and treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and if the infection is in the upper or lower urinary tract.

UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics for three days—longer if the UTI is serious. Untreated, a UTI will become increasingly painful and can increase the risk of kidney damage. If a UTI is caused by a virus or fungus, a doctor will prescribe antiviral medication. Home remedies are not available for UTIs, and you should see your doctor if you suspect you may have one.

There are over-the-counter treatments that will treat UTI symptoms, but they will not address the underlying infection.

Prevention

The best way to deal with a UTI is to avoid one altogether if possible. To prevent a UTI:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
  • Avoid holding in urine for excessive periods.
  • Control blood sugar (as much as possible).
  • Urinate after intercourse (it helps flush bacteria).
  • Wipe from front to back when using the restroom.
  • Wear breathable underwear.
  • Drink low-sugar cranberry juice as it may help bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
  • If applicable, take steps to manage urinary incontinence. There are strategies to retrain the bladder to reduce incontinence.

UTIs are not fun to talk about, but they’re even less fun to deal with, so stay informed and keep yourself healthy. And if you do find yourself experiencing symptoms down south, be sure to visit your doctor!

Stay healthy, friends!

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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