A urinary tract infection is a common infection which can affect any part of the urinary system, including:
- urethra – an infection of the tube which empties urine from the bladder to the outside is called urethritis;
- ureters – the tubes which take urine from each kidney to the bladder are rarely the only site of infection;
- kidneys – an infection of one or both kidneys is called a kidney infection or pyelonephritis;
- bladder – an infection in the bladder is called a bladder infection or cystitis.
Women are more likely to get urinary tract infections than men.
That’s because women have a shorter urethra that’s closer to the rectum. An estimated 50% of women will need treatment for at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime.
Each year in the US, over 8 million visits to doctors are for UTIs.
The signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include:
- vomiting (most often due to a kidney infection);
- a persistent urge to urinate;
- burning or pain when urinating;
- pelvic pain in women;
- strong-smelling urine;
- pink or brownish urine;
- cloudy urine;
- passing frequent, small amounts of urine.
A urinary tract infection is commonly caused by pathogenic bacteria entering the urinary tract via the urethra.
Common risk factors for UTI may include:
- potty training can lead to UTIs, most especially in girls;
- due to the shorter distance from the opening of the urethra to the bladder, the female anatomy places a woman at greater risk;
- tampons, douching, and feminine deodorants may give harmful bacteria a chance to invade;
- sexually active women are at greater risk than non-sexually active women;
- due to non-sterile or prolonged use, catheters can instigate infection;
- menopause can alter the protective flora in the vagina;
- type 2 diabetes mellitus can increase urine glucose which bacteria feed on;
- uncircumcised men may harbor harmful bacteria under the foreskin;
- kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can allow bacteria in the bladder to establish an infection;
- spermicidal lubricants can trigger genital inflammation;
- diaphragms can promote the growth of coliform bacteria.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose UTIs include:
- urinalysis – it analyzes a sample of your urine;
- rectal exam (to rule out prostatitis in men);
- urine culture;
- pelvic exam (to rule out pelvic infection in women);
- imaging your urinary tract;
- blood tests, especially if a kidney infection is suspected;
- an ultrasound of the kidneys and/or bladder;
- CT scan of the urinary tract.
Commonly prescribed drugs for UTIs include the following:
- Cephalexin (an antibiotic which can treat a number of bacterial infections);
Here is a comparison between Cystex and Azo, two over-the-counter medicines that are indicated for relieving UTIs symptoms:
Cystex Plus Urinary Pain Relief Tablets
It has a combination of:
- sodium salicylate (pain reliever);
- methenamine (antibacterial).
Cystex is used to prevent the urinary tract infection from getting worse as well as for relieving the pain and burning of UTIs.
It is a pain reliever which affects the lower part of your urinary tract. Its active ingredient is phenazopyridine.
This medication is used to treat urinary symptoms, like – increased urination, burning or pain, and an increased urge to urinate.
Note – it is not a cure for UTIs since it will only treat urinary symptoms.
Possible side effects of Cystex include:
- stomach bleeding;
- changes in behavior.
Possible side effects of Azo include:
- a purple appearance of your skin;
- little or no urinating;
- rapid weight gain;
- upset stomach;
- stomach pain;
- pale or yellowed skin;
- pain in your side or lower back;
- loss of appetite;
For adults and children 12 years and over, the usual recommended dose of Cystex is 2 tablets 3 times per day.
This medication is taken by mouth with a full glass of water.
For children 12 years and older, the usual recommended dose of Azo is 190 to 195 mg orally 3 times per day.
Warnings & Precautions
Do not use this medicine:
- if you have stomach problems;
- if you are allergic to salicylates;
- if you are on a sodium-restricted diet.
To make sure that this medicine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
- glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency;
- liver disease.
Also, do not use this medicine for longer than 2 days unless your healthcare professional has told you to.
Using alcohol may cause interactions to occur.
Avoid alcohol intake while taking these medicines.
There are no known drug interactions.
Is It Safe During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?
There isn’t enough information about the safety of using these over-the-counter medicines during breastfeeding and pregnancy.
Talk with your healthcare provider before taking these medicines.
Cystex vs Azo – Which Is Better?
Cystex is the only over-the-counter UTI product which combines an antibacterial agent (methenamine) and a pain relief medication (sodium salicylate).
Azo (phenazopyridine) is a pain reliever which affects the lower part of your urinary tract.
In conclusion, both products relieve the pain associated with a UTI, but Cystex is also an antibacterial agent.
Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections
There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a UTI:
- avoid tight-fitting clothing and pantyhose;
- to reduce the chance of dragging bacteria from the rectal area to the urethra, the genitals should be wiped from front to back after a bowel movement;
- take showers instead of baths;
- avoid smoking cigarettes;
- wear cotton underwear;
- wash the genital area with warm water before having sex;
- avoid fluids and foods which irritate the bladder, like – drinks containing caffeine or alcohol;
- if you have vaginal dryness, use a water-based lubricant during sex;
- don’t douche;
- drink plenty of fluids to encourage frequent urination;
- change feminine pads and tampons often;
- urinate frequently;
- don’t use feminine deodorants on your genital area;
- drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day;
- to reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection, post-menopausal women should apply an estrogen-containing vaginal cream;
- to help flush out bacteria which may be introduced during intercourse, urinate immediately before and after sex.