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February 19, 2018

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Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center

Get to know these common urinary diseases

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Meet the medical professional in this story

• Jeffrey Murawsky, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center

Urological diseases are common for men and women of any age.

The urinary tract — consisting of the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra — is responsible for removing excess waste from the body and maintaining a healthy hydration level. “The kidneys are one of the body’s filters,” Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky said. “They regulate minerals and remove some toxins from our blood. They also regulate the water that makes up the majority of our bodies. The most prevalent issues tend to be infections of the urinary tract, and other common conditions that include kidney stones, incontinence and kidney disease.”

While many of the diseases that can affect the urinary tract are easy to manage, they can cause discomfort and pain, and escalate quickly if left untreated.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections are among the most widespread urological health issues. “A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urethra or bladder that occurs when outside bacteria gets into those spaces,” Murawsky said. Once there, the bacteria (often E. Coli) grows in the bladder and can spread through the entire urinary tract and infect the kidneys.

UTIs are more common in women in men because of the female anatomy — women’s urethras are shorter than men’s, allowing the bacteria to travel quickly — but men can contract them as well.

Symptoms

• Persistent urge to urinate and/or passing frequent, small amounts of urine

• Pain when urinating

• Urine that appears cloudy and/or blood in urine

• Pelvic pain in women

Murawsky notes that while these symptoms are associated with UTIs, they can indicate other problems as well.

Diagnosis and treatment

UTIs can be diagnosed with a urine sample and lab testing. “Once diagnosed, antibiotics are the best treatment, and it’s important to take the entire dose as prescribed,” Murawsky said.

There also are medications that can help manage UTI pain, available by prescription and over the counter, but they should be taken in tandem with antibiotics. Otherwise they might mask symptoms and allow the infection to worsen.

Risk factors

Women are more prone to UTIs because of their anatomy, medical history and lifestyle risk factors. Being post-menopausal, sexually active or pregnant can increase risk.

However, Murawsky warns that one of the strongest risk factors for women is having a UTI in the past. “Once you get one, it’s more likely to happen again.”

In children, UTIs can be associated with other conditions, including neurological diseases and urinary obstruction, but most are caused by incontinence (repeated accidental urination) or waiting too long before urinating.

Does cranberry juice actually help?

Cranberry juice has been long considered an at-home option for treating and easing UTI pain, but recent research has challenged this idea. “There is a debate on cranberry juice,” Murawsky said. “However, good hydration by drinking water can improve symptoms. For repeated infections, patients can discuss the use of probiotics with their physician.”

Kidney infection

Kidney infections, or pyelonephritis, can occur as a result of a severe urinary tract infection, wherein the bacteria travels to the kidney. This infection needs to be treated immediately because it can cause life-threatening complications.

Symptoms

“The symptoms are the same as a UTI, but are more severe and include fever and chills,” Murawsky said.

Diagnosis and treatment

Like UTIs, kidney infections are usually diagnosed with a urine sample and treated with antibiotics. “However, because kidney infections can cause high fevers, patients often require intravenous antibiotics,” Murawsky said.

In some cases, kidney infections can be caused by an obstruction of the urine flow, requiring treatment to address the obstruction.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are another common condition of the urinary tract. They occur when high levels of the minerals found in urine — such as calcium, cysteine and uric acid — form into hard, stone-like deposits.

Murawsky notes that kidney stones affect about 1 in 11 people and are more common in older adults.

Symptoms

• Pain in the lower abdomen and back

• Radiating pain in the lower abdomen and groin

• Pain when urinating

• Cloudy and/or bloody urine

• Urinating frequently

• Nausea/vomiting

Diagnosis and treatment

Kidney stones can be diagnosed with a blood test, urine analysis and/or an X-ray or CT scan. They also can be diagnosed by testing a stone that already has passed.

“Most kidney stones can clear up on their own when the patient passes the stone through the urine, which can be painful and cause some bleeding,” Murawsky said. “If the stone is stuck, it can require treatment to remove.” Removing a kidney stone may require surgery or noninvasive methods, such as soundwaves.

Preventing urological diseases

Many urological diseases can be prevented by maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, such as drinking enough water, eating a healthy diet and using good hygiene practices. “UTIs and kidney stones are impacted if the amount of urine is insufficient,” Murawsky said. “As such, appropriate hydration is key.”

The doctor also recommended that men maintain a regular screening schedule for prostate disease, and women have regular gynecological examinations and screenings. Managing high blood pressure and/or diabetes also is important for kidney health.