Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a common infection of the urinary system. It is almost always caused by bacteria, but can also be secondary to fungi or viruses.
The urinary tract comprises the lower (the urethra and bladder) and the upper tract (the ureters and kidneys). Most UTI cases affect only the lower tract but turn severe when the upper tract becomes involved.
Known as a commonly contracted infection therefore, learning about UTI can be helpful in preventing further complications and graver consequences.
UTI symptoms depend on the part or parts infected.
Lower Tract UTI
Lower tract UTI affects the urethra and bladder, usually signaled by the following symptoms:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Cloudy urine
- Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
- Frequent urination
- Increased urgency of urination
- Pelvic pain in women
- Presence of blood in urine
- Strong urine color
- Strong urine odor
- Pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen or groin
- Rectal pain in men
Upper Tract UTI
Upper tract UTI affects the ureters and kidneys. Therefore, this has the potential to be fatal if bacteria move from the kidney into the circulatory system via blood or urosepsis. This can cause severely low blood pressure, shock, or death. Upper tract UTI symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides
UTI Causes and Risk Factors
Any activity that reduces bladder emptying or irritates the urinary tract can result in a UTI. Additionally, there are other factors that can increase the risk of infection. These include:
- Abnormally developed urinary structures
- Age – young children and older adults are more prone to infection
- Kidney stones
- Previous cases of UTI
- Prolonged use of urinary catheters – allows bacteria to get into the bladder
- Recent urinary procedure
- Reduced mobility or prolonged bed rest
- Urinary tract blockages, such as:
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
- Certain forms of cancer
- Weakened immune system
Additional Risk Factors for Women
Apart from those mentioned above, there are additional risk factors that are specific to the female anatomy such as:
- Certain types of birth control such as:
- Spermicides – spermicides may increase the risk of infection as they disrupt the vaginal microbiome.
- Diaphragms – have the possibility to put pressure on the urethra decreasing the rate of bladder emptying.
- Menopause – the decrease in estrogen level changes the bacteria in the vagina, leading to a potential increase in UTI risk.
- Shorter urethra – the urethra is shorter in female bodies and is close to both the vagina and the anus. Naturally-occurring bacteria around both areas increase the possibility of developing UTIs. The urethra is shorter in female bodies, thus bacteria only need to travel a shorter distance to enter and infect the bladder.
- Sex – pressure on the urinary tract during penetrative sex may move bacteria around to the bladder. Oral sex can also potentially transfer bacteria into the urethra hence, increasing the risk of infection.
Tests that can be done to diagnose urinary tract infections are:
- Urinalysis – examination of the urine for red and white blood cells, or bacteria. Urine collection should be done after cleansing the genital area and catching the midstream part of the urine.
- Urine culture and sensitivity – this test determines the type of bacteria infecting the urine. This helps determine the appropriate treatment for the urine infection.
- Ultrasound of the kidneys, ureter, and urinary bladder.
- CT scan or MRI scan – this is requested to investigate for structural problems that might be causing the recurrent urinary tract infection.
UTI treatments vary depending on whether it is viral (antiviral medications), bacterial (antibacterial medications), or fungal (antifungal medications). Your doctor will be able to determine the type of infection by examining your test results.
Make sure to get the proper prescription, and do not attempt self-medication.
Contracting a UTI is as easy as preventing it, such as:
- Avoid holding urine in for long periods of time
- Consult with your doctor about managing any urinary difficulties in emptying your bladder.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily
- Practicing good hygiene
Including this in your daily habit will help decrease if not fully prevent contracting UTI.
It always pays to be informed.
Self-medicating can be dangerous. If you want to learn more about your UTI and how to treat it, Medgate’s team of medical experts is only a ring away.