6 Uncommon Signs You Have a Urinary Tract Infection
For many women, the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) are distinct and immediately identifiable. However, for other women, such signs can be more subtle. If you experience any of the six problems we highlight here, don't ignore them: You might have a UTI.
First, the common signs of a UTI
Urinary tract infections occur in the urethra when bacteria overgrow. These infections can impact any area of your urinary tract, including your bladder or kidneys, which can cause persistent pain and inflammation.
If you've ever had a UTI, the symptoms are difficult to forget:
A constant need to urinate
Burning or pain during urination
Cloudiness and/or a pink or red tinge to your urine
Pelvic pain or "heaviness"
Typically, these symptoms are so distinctive and urgent that it doesn't take long to identify and address a UTI. For some women, though, it's possible to have a urinary tract infection without any symptoms. When the infection is finally diagnosed, it's because of symptoms that seem unrelated to a UTI.
Frequent nausea and vomiting
These symptoms are not very common because they often indicate a UTI has advanced to become a kidney infection. For women with UTIs that are asymptomatic, nausea and vomiting are usually the first indications that an infection is present. This type of nausea and vomiting is often intermittent and mimics morning sickness. It's not uncommon that women who experience these symptoms discover they have a UTI only after they go to a doctor and rule out pregnancy.
Fatigue and lack of appetite
These general symptoms can be a sign of pretty much anything, but when they occur in conjunction with chills and a fever, it's understandable that many women misdiagnose themselves with the flu or a stomach virus. After self-diagnosis, they may take a few days to recuperate, but the symptoms just won't go away.
Unfortunately, when a UTI has reached the point where you are extremely tired, lack an appetite and have a fever, the infection has likely advanced into your kidneys and bladder. Fortunately, treatment even at this stage likely consists of taking an antibiotic and monitoring your fluids, but you cannot properly treat a kidney infection without the help of a physician, and ignoring these symptoms could cause permanent damage to your kidneys.
Agitation and confusion
These symptoms are most common in older adults with UTIs. When older adults become abruptly confused or agitated or when their mental health seems to deteriorate overnight, these changes may point to a urinary tract infection. Confusion and agitation do not automatically mean a person is suffering from a UTI, but understanding this connection can be important in properly diagnosing the cause of these symptoms.
Don't wait to seek treatment
Unfortunately, many women think that drinking plenty of fluids will flush a urinary tract infection from their system, but this will most likely only mask the symptoms and make them think they are better. No one enjoys the inconvenience of a doctor's appointment, but getting a professional diagnosis and following through on treatment is a small price to pay for your health.
Ignoring a UTI will only allow it to spread through your urinary tract to your bladder and eventually to your kidneys. In the most extreme cases, these kidney infections can cause severe damage to your kidneys and urinary tract that could lead to kidney failure, narrowing of the urethra, and sepsis, a life-threatening infection of the bloodstream that can attack your heart.
Treating a UTI
Sepsis is a worst-case scenario, and treating a urinary tract infection is usually surprisingly simple. Most often, your doctor can easily diagnose a UTI, even with some of the above uncommon symptoms, and a simple urine test will identify your infection. There's no reason to ignore a urinary tract infection, and with antibiotics and plenty of fluids, you can make a fast recovery.