Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are really common, but have you ever had to deal with one in Rome, Italy? It's one thing to manage common illnesses and infections at home but when you’re abroad, the simplest of tasks can become more complicated especially if you need an English-speaking doctor. Although many processes may be difficult or time-consuming in Italy, we’re going to simplify the steps you need to take to get treatment for a UTI in Rome.
Symptoms of a UTI
One of the first things you may ask is how you can identify a UTI. If you have had one before, you probably know exactly how it feels and the best ways to resolve the issue. If it’s your first UTI, some of the most common symptoms you might be experiencing include:
A persistent and strong urge to urinate
Burning during urination
Frequent urination with little urine production
Discolored urine (red, bright pink or dark soda-colored) or blood in the urine
In women, pain in the pelvis
You may be experiencing different symptoms based on where in your urinary tract the infection has struck.
For a kidney infection (pyelonephritis), you may have:
Back or side pain
Shaking and chills
Nausea and/or vomiting
A bladder infection (cystitis) could present:
Pressure in the pelvis
Discomfort in the lower abdomen
Frequent and/or painful urination
Blood in urine
A urethral infection (urethritis) may present:
Symptoms may also vary according to age.
In children, you may see:
Fever or high temperature around their neck, back or abdomen
General unwellness: irritation in babies and small children and improper feeding
Bedwetting or incontinence
In elders, symptoms could also include:
Behavioral changes like agitation or confusion (delirium)
New or worsened urinary incontinence
New rigors (chills/shaking)
To diagnose UTIs, you should speak with your doctor about your symptoms. They will likely prescribe urine tests and possibly an ultrasound or urologist consultation, if necessary. Once they have the results of the test, they can confirm the diagnosis and give you a prescription or update the one they may have already given you. If you need an ultrasound or more specialized visit, they will refer to further diagnostics to confirm the condition.
Many things can cause these infections and, although they more often affect women, men are not immune to UTIs. One of the most common causes is bacteria from the anus entering the urethra. Because women’s urethras are shorter than men’s, bacteria can more easily enter and spread in the female urinary tract. Another common factor may be sexual activity, especially if you often change partners. Other conditions that may put you at risk for a UTI include recent urinary procedures, catheter use, kidney stones or other urinary tract blockages, certain medications and forms of birth control, or a weakened immune system.
How to avoid a UTI
It’s never fun to have a UTI. Once you’ve gotten over it, here are a few simple things you can do to protect your urinary tract:
Drink lots of water! – Yes, we know everyone says this all the time, but drinking water can help flush out any lingering bacteria.
Wipe from front to back – This will ensure that bacteria from the anus does not enter your urethra or vagina.
Avoid sprays and scented soaps – Do not use heavy perfumes or scented soaps around your genitals, as this could irritate your urethra and the skin nearby
Cleanse your genitals before and after sexual activity – Washing with water before and urinating/washing after sex can ensure that no bacteria has the chance to enter your urethra.
Wear underwear that fits properly – Wearing cotton or natural fiber underwear that is not too tight or restrictive allows air to flow freely to and from your genital area and keep it dry.
Urinate when you feel the need – This one seems obvious, but avoid holding your urine for long periods of time when you can help it.
Speak to your doctor! – Talk to your doctor about managing and treating your infection, and discuss which medicines you’re taking (including birth control) or any creams you’re using that could be related to increased risk of UTI.
In Italy, getting antibiotics is not as simple as going to the pharmacy and asking for a box. If you are dealing with a UTI, you may ask the pharmacist what they recommend and they can give you an over-the-counter treatment. Many people turn to cranberry juice or tablets, or other “light,” OTC treatments. Depending on the severity of your infection, this may resolve the problem but is not guaranteed to get rid of the infection.
If your symptoms worsen or do not improve within two days, however, a general practitioner visit may be in order to get an antibiotic. Here in Italy, you will need a doctor’s prescription to get any kind of antibiotic treatment.
When to See a Doctor
It may seem silly to visit the doctor for a urinary tract infection, especially when you are
used to different ways of treating them at home. To avoid worsening symptoms or the spread of the infection into other parts of your urinary tract, however, this may be essential. Many times, a GP visit and urine tests may be enough to get the treatment you need. In more severe cases, you may need to see a urologist or nephrologist.
Specialist Visit and Treatment
If it’s readily available to you, seeing a specialist could be the solution for you. For UTIs, a urologist or nephrologist may be necessary. Urologists deal with the urogenital system and can diagnose and treat UTIs, and nephrologists are doctors who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of kidney conditions. Initially, a visit to the urologist can help you to determine where your infection lies and whether you need a more specialized doctor (nephrologist).
Generally, the best treatment for a UTI is antibiotic therapy. During your visit, you can explain your symptoms and their severity to the doctor and, based on his examination, he will likely prescribe urine tests (if you haven’t already performed them), and may give you a light prescription that can be updated upon receipt of the lab results. Many doctors will not prescribe antibiotics without having the results of a urine test, so keep this in mind as you make your appointment!
For UTIs and any other health problems you may encounter, let FirstMed help make your life easier. With on-site lab, ultrasound, x-ray, and a wide range of specialties all available in English, we are happy to accommodate patients whose Italian language skills could use some work, or may not be a part of the National Public Health System. Call or email us today to schedule an appointment!