Urinary tract infection (UTI) – Symptoms and causes

Urinary Tract Infection – Overview Female urinary systemOpen pop-up dialog box MaleAn infection in any part of the urinary system such as kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra is known as urinary tract infection. The lower urinary tract is involved in most infections such as the bladder and the urethra. Developing a UTI can be a […]

Urinary Tract Infection – Overview

An infection in any part of the urinary system such as kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra is known as urinary tract infection. The lower urinary tract is involved in most infections such as the bladder and the urethra.

Developing a UTI can be a greater risk for women than men. Infection which is limited to bladder can be painful and annoying. If UTI spreads to the kidneys serious consequences may occur

A urinary tract infection is treated by doctors typically with antibiotics. Steps can be taken to reduce the chances of getting a UTI in the first place.

 Urinary Tract Infection – Symptoms

Signs and symptoms are not usually caused by urinary tract infections, but when they do they may include:

  • A strong, continuous urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored which is a sign of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone

In older adults UTIs may be missed or mistaken for other conditions.

Urinary tract infection – Types

Depending on which part of your urinary tract is infected, each type of UTI may result in signs and symptoms which are more specific

Part of urinary tract affected Signs and symptoms
Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis)
  • Upper back and side (flank) pain
  • High fever
  • Shaking and chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Bladder (cystitis)
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Lower abdomen discomfort
  • Frequent, painful urination
  • Blood in urine
Urethra (urethritis)
  • Burning with urination
  • Discharge

If having any signs and symptoms of a UTI, the doctor must be contacted

Urinary Tract Infection – Causes

When bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder a urinary tract infection occurs typically. Although the urinary system is designed in such a way that it can keep out such microscopic invaders, but these defenses sometimes fail. When the defenses fails, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.

The most common UTIs that appear are mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.

  • Cystitis. This type of UTI is an infection of the bladder and is usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria which is commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, sometimes this may be due to other bacteria being responsible.

Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, but not being sexually active is not a reason to develop it. All women are at risk of developing cystitis because of the anatomy which is specifically, the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder.

  • Urethritis. This type of UTI is an infection of the urethra and can occur when GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Also, because the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections can be a cause of urethritis, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mycoplasma

Urinary Tract Infection – Risk factors

Urinary tract infections are found mostly in women, and during their lifetime many women experience more than one infection. Risk factors which are specific to women for UTIs include:

  • A woman has a shorter urethra than a man does, which shortens the distance that bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.
  • Women who are sexually active tend to have more UTIs than do women who aren’t sexually active. The risk may be increased if having a new sexual partner
  • Women who are using diaphragms for birth control may be at risk which is higher, as well as women who use spermicidal agents.
  • A decline in circulating estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that can it make more vulnerable to infection after a menopause.

Other risk factors for UTIs may include:

  • Babies who are born with urinary tract abnormalities that don’t allow urine to leave the body in a normal state or cause urine to back up in the urethra have an increased risk of UTIs.
  • The risk may be increased of UTIs if the kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can trap urine in the bladder
  • Diabetes and other diseases that damage the immune system and the body’s defense against germs which can increase the risk of UTIs.
  • People who are not able to urinate on their own and use a tube (catheter) to urinate have an increased risk of UTIs. Catheter may be useful for people who are hospitalized, people with neurological problems that make it difficult to control their ability to urinate and people who are paralyzed.
  • The risk of developing a UTI may increase if a urinary surgery or an exam of urinary tract has been conducted that involves medical instruments

Urinary Tract Infection – Complications

When treated on time and properly, rarely lower urinary tract infections may lead to complications. But if they are left untreated, a urinary tract infection can have crucial consequences.

UTI complications may include:

  • Infections which are recurrent, especially in women who experience two or more UTIs in a period of sixth month or four or more within a year.
  • Kidney damage which is permanent from an acute or chronic kidney infection (pyelonephritis) due to an UTI which is left untreated.
  • In pregnant women the risk may increase of delivering low birth weight or premature infants.
  • Urethral narrowing (stricture) in men from urethritis which is recurrent, which is previously seen with gonococcal urethritis.
  • A potentially life-threatening complication of an infection known as sepsis, especially if the infection works its way up the urinary tract to the kidneys.

Urinary Tract Infection – Prevention

Following steps can be taken to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections:

  • Drinking plenty of liquids especially water helps in diluting the urine and ensures that urinating is done more frequently, allowing the bacteria to be flushed from the urinary tract before an infection can begin.
  • Although researches are not conclusive but the cranberry juice prevents UTIs, it is likely not to be harmful.
  • Wiping from front and back after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
  • Emptying the bladder soon after having intercourse and also drinking a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
  • Using deodorant sprays or other feminine products should be avoided, such as douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
  • The birth control method should be changed as diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.

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