A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection affecting any region in your urinary system including kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most commonly infections involve the lower urinary tract- the bladder and urethra. Generally, women are more prone to developing UTI than men, it can be very painful and aggravating when the infection is limited to the bladder. If UTI spreads to the kidneys it would lead to serious complications.
Symptoms Of UTI
Generally, symptoms of a UTI depend on which part of the urinary tract is infected, some of the symptoms of a lower tract UTI include
Burning sensation while urinating
Increased frequency to urinate without passing much urine
Increased urgency of urination
Strong smell in urine
Pelvic pain in women
Rectal pain in men
While upper tract UTI’s involve the kidneys and can be life-threatening if bacteria move from the kidney into the blood, this condition is called urosepsis that can result in seriously low blood pressure, shock and death.
Symptoms of an upper tract UTI include:
Intense pain and tenderness in upper back and sides
Types Of Urinary Tract Infection
Each type of UTI may show more specific signs and symptoms, depending on which part of your urinary tract is infected
Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis) –Signs and symptoms
Upper back and side pain
Nausea and vomiting
Lower abdomen distress
Frequent, painful urination
Burning sensation with urination
Causes Of UTI
Urinary tract infections develop when bacteria enter the urinary tract via the urethra and start to multiply in the bladder. Even though the urinary system is structured to keep out microbes, the defence mechanisms sometimes fail. Where the bacteria may thrive and grow into a completely matured infection in the urinary tract.
Infection of the bladder (cystitis) that is caused by E.coli, a type of bacteria usually found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, women are at higher risk because of their physical structure.
Infection of the urethra (urethritis) develops when GI bacteria transmit from the anus to the urethra. Particularly in women, the urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections like herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and mycoplasma can also cause urethritis.
Risk Factors Of UTI
Urinary tract infections are quite common in women, most women may have more than one episode of infection during their lifetime. Some of the risk factors specific to women include:
Female anatomy – Women has a shorter urethra than men, which shortens the distance and the bacteria can easily travel to reach the bladder.
Sexual active women are more prone to develop UTIs than women who aren’t sexually active.
Women who use diaphragms for birth control, as well as spermicidal agents, are at higher risk.
Post menopause there is a reduction in circulating estrogen leading to changes in the urinary tract structure that may make them more vulnerable to infection.
The diagnosis usually involves certain tests and procedures which include:
Urine sample analysis to look for white blood cells, red blood cells or the presence of any bacteria.
Urine Culture is done to identify the type of bacteria causing infection and which medications will work effectively.
If a person complaints of frequent infections the doctor may also perform an ultrasound, tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cystoscopy may be also performed, where a tube with a lens is inserted inside urethra and bladder.
Treatment of urinary tract infection mainly depends on treating the causative factor, after the test results are obtained. Most commonly bacteria is the cause and it is treated with antibiotics which is the first-line treatment for UTI.
Sometimes viruses or fungus are the causes, where viral UTIs are treated with antivirals and fungal infections are treated with antifungal medications.
If a person suffers from frequent UTIs then the doctor may recommend:
Low- dose antibiotics are prescribed for six months, sometimes even longer.
A single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse if infections are caused due to sexual activity.
Postmenopausal women may need vaginal estrogen therapy.
For more severe UTI, the patient may need hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics treatment.
Following some of the precautionary measures may help to lower your risk of urinary tract infections which include:
Staying well-hydrated, especially drinking plenty of water helps to dilute urine and also flushes out bacteria from the urinary tract before an infection begin.
Drinking cranberry juice may prevent UTI’s, as the presence of an active ingredient in cranberries averts the adherence of bacteria in the urinary system.
Always wipe from front to back after urinating and after passing bowel, this helps prevent any bacteria thriving in the anal region from transmitting to the vagina and urethra.
Emptying bladder soon after intercourse and also having a glass of water may help to get rid of bacteria.
Refrain from using potentially irritating feminine products such as deodorants, douches and powders in the genital area that may irritate the urethra.
Change your birth control method, if it is the contributing factor for bacterial growth.