A Urinary tract infection (UTI)is the most common type of infection in humans. The word “urinary” refers to the urinary tract, which is a series of organs that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder. The urinary tract consists of two parts: the kidneys, which remove waste and excess water from the body; and the ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
The urinary tract is made up of several tubes, including:
- Kidneys (the largest organs in the body)
- Ureters (the thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
- Bladder (a muscular organ that holds urine)
- Urethra (a tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body)
When these tubes become blocked or infected, they become inflamed. As a result, they can no longer transport waste and excess water efficiently. This results in UTIs.
Lower tract UTI symptoms
Lower tract UTIs are caused by bacteria in the urinary tract. These bacteria usually enter the body through a contaminated urethra, which is the flexible tube that carries urine out of the body during urination.
UTIs have been linked with symptoms like burning with urination and increased frequency of urination without passing much urine. The risk of getting a UTI is higher if you frequently experience these symptoms.
Other risk factors include if you are the primary caretaker for a child or you are pregnant or breastfeeding and experiencing frequent urinary tract infections.
Upper tract UTI symptoms
Upper tract UTIs affect the kidneys. These can be potentially life-threatening if bacteria move from the infected kidney into the blood. This condition, called urosepsis, can cause dangerously low blood pressure, shock, and death.
Symptoms of an upper tract UTI include:
- Pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides
UTI symptoms in men
Symptoms of an upper tract urinary infection in men are similar to those in women. However, men with a lower tract UTI may sometimes also experience rectal pain.
UTI symptoms in women
Women with a lower tract urinary infection may experience pelvic pain. This is in addition to the other common symptoms.
UTI causes and risk factors
Anything that reduces your bladder emptying or irritates the urinary tract can lead to a UTI. There are also many factors that can put you at an increased risk of getting a UTI.
These symptoms require immediate medical treatment to get rid of the infection and prevent permanent damage to your kidneys or the spread of the infection to your bloodstream.
These risk factors include:
- Age (Older adults are more likely to get Utis.)
- Reduced mobility after surgery or prolonged bed rest
- A previous UTI
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
- Certain forms of cancer
- Diabetes- blood sugar level high
- Abnormally developed urinary structures from birth
- Weak immune system
- You are more likely to get a urinary tract infection if you: Are pregnant. Pregnancy increases the chances of a urinary tract infection for several reasons, including changes in the urinary tract that occur after conception and during pregnancy. Your urine contains more sugar than usual, making it more likely to encourage bacterial growth. Also, hormones from the pregnancy can slow down your body’s natural cleansing of urine.
- You might have a urinary tract infection (UTI) if you feel a burn while urinating or suffer from lower body pressure.
- Using a catheter for long periods of time can upset the balance of bacteria in your bladder, making it easier for harmful bacteria to grow. Also, having a urine catheter increases the risk of getting an infection in your blood or at the site where the catheter enters your body.
Additional UTI risk factors for men
Most UTI risk factors for men are the same as those for women. However, having an enlarged prostate can also increase UTI risk.
Additional UTI risk factors for women
While it has been widely believed that wiping from back to front after using the bathroom increased the risk of recurring UTIs, older research showed that this is not the case.
However, there are still some risk factors unique to female anatomy like:
In female bodies, the urethra is very close to both the vagina and the anus. This increases the likelihood of developing UTIs. Bacteria that may naturally occur around both the vagina and anus can lead to infection in the urethra and the rest of the urinary tract. Urethras in women are also shorter, and the bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to enter the bladder.
Pressure on the female urinary tract during penetrative sex can move bacteria from around the anus into the bladder. Oral sex can also introduce bacteria into the urethra, increasing the risk of infection. Peeing after sex may help reduce the risk of infection.
Spermicides may increase UTI risk because they can disrupt the vaginal microbiome.
Uses of Condom During Sex
Non-lubricated latex condoms may increase friction and irritate the skin during sexual intercourse. This may increase the risk of a UTI.
However, there are many reasons to use condoms. They are important for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and preventing unwanted pregnancy. To help prevent friction and skin irritation from condoms, be sure to use enough water-based lubricant during sex. Avoid using condoms that have been coated with spermicide.
Diaphragms may put pressure on the urethra. This can decrease bladder emptying, increasing the risk for bacterial growth and infection.
Decrease in estrogen levels
After menopause, a decrease in estrogen level changes the normal bacteria in your vagina. This can increase the risk of a UTI.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)Diagnosis
If you suspect that you have a UTI based on your symptoms, contact your doctor. Your doctor will review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. To confirm a diagnosis of a UTI, your doctor will need to test your urine for microbes.
The urine sample needs to be a “clean-catch” sample. This means the urine sample is collected at the middle of your urinary stream, rather than at the beginning. This helps to avoid collecting bacteria or yeast from your skin, which can contaminate the sample. Your doctor will explain to you how to get a clean catch. When testing the sample, your doctor will look for a higher number of white blood cells in your urine. This can indicate an infection. Your doctor will also do a urine culture to test for bacteria or fungi. The culture can help identify the cause of the infection. It can also help your doctor choose a treatment.
If your doctor suspects the UTI is viral, special testing may need to be performed. Viruses are rare causes of UTIs but can be seen in people who have had organ transplants or who have other conditions that weaken their immune system.
Upper tract UTIs
If your doctor suspects that you have an upper tract UTI, they may also need to do a complete blood count (CBC) and blood cultures, in addition to the urine test. A blood culture can make certain that your infection has not spread to your bloodstream.
Most UTIs go away after treatment. However, some people develop chronic UTIs. Chronic UTIs either do not go away after treatment or keep recurring. Recurrent UTIs are common among women. If you have chronic UTIs, your doctor may want to check for any abnormalities or obstructions in your urinary tract. Here are some common tests:
- An ultrasound is where a device called a transducer is passed over your abdomen. The transducer uses ultrasound waves to create an image of your urinary tract organs that are displayed on a monitor.
- An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) involves injecting a dye into your body that travels through your urinary tract. Then, an X-ray of your abdomen is taken. The dye highlights your urinary tract on the X-ray image.
- A cystoscopy uses a small camera that is inserted through your urethra and up into your bladder to see inside your bladder. During a cystoscopy, your doctor may remove a small piece of bladder tissue and test it to rule out bladder inflammation or cancer as a cause of your symptoms.
- A computerized tomography (CT) scan gets more detailed images of your urinary system.
UTIs during pregnancy
If you are pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI, see your doctor right away.
UTIs during pregnancy can cause high blood pressure and premature delivery. UTIs during pregnancy are also more likely to spread to the kidneys.
Treatment of a UTI depends on whether it is:
- Bacterial (most common)
Your doctor will be able to determine which it is by looking at your test results.
Bacterial UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Viral UTIs are treated with medications called antivirals. Often, the antiviral cidofovir is the choice to treat viral UTIs. Fungal UTIs are treated with medications called antifungals.
Antibiotics for a UTI
The form of antibiotic used to treat a bacterial UTI usually depends on which part of the tract is involved.
Lower tract UTIs can usually be treated with oral antibiotics. Upper tract UTIs require intravenous antibiotics. These antibiotics are put directly into your veins. Sometimes, bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. To reduce your risk of antibiotic resistance, your doctor will likely put you on the shortest treatment course possible. Treatment typically lasts no more than 1 week.
Results from your urine culture can help your doctor select an antibiotic treatment that will work best against the type of bacteria that is causing your infection.
Treatments other than antibiotics for bacterial UTIs are being examined. At some point, UTI treatment without antibiotics may be an option for bacterial UTIs by using cell chemistry to change the interaction between the body and the bacteria.
Home remedies for a UTI
There are no home remedies that can cure a UTI, but there are some things that you can do that can help your medication work well. These home remedies for UTIs, like drinking more water, may help your body clear the infection faster.
Cranberry juice or cranberries do not treat a UTI once it is started. However, a chemical in cranberries may help prevent certain types of bacteria that can cause a bacterial UTI from attaching to the lining of your bladder. This may be helpful in preventing future UTIs.
While cranberries are a popular remedy, the researchTrusted Source on their effect on UTIs is mixed. More conclusive studies are needed.
Still, the American Urological Association says that clinicians can offer cranberry juice to patients as a way to prevent recurrent UTIs. But they note that there is a low level of certainty that this will work.
It is important to treat a UTI — the earlier, the better. Untreated UTIs become more and more severe the further they spread. A UTI is usually easiest to treat in the lower urinary tract. An infection that spreads to the upper urinary tract is much more difficult to treat and is more likely to spread into your blood, causing sepsis. This is a life-threatening event. If you suspect that you have a UTI, contact your doctor as soon as possible. A simple examination and urine or blood test could save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Everyone can take the following steps to help prevent UTIs:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water daily.
- Do not hold urine in for long periods of time.
- Talk with your doctor about managing any urinary incontinence or difficulties fully emptying your bladder.
Women are 30 times trusted Source more likely than men to get UTIs. Certain steps may help prevent UTIs in women.
If you are perimenopausal or postmenopausal, using topical or vaginal estrogen prescribed by your doctor could make a difference in preventing UTIs. If your doctor believes that intercourse is a factor in your recurrent UTIs, they may recommend taking preventive antibiotics after sex, or long-term. Some studies have shown that long-term preventive use of antibiotics in older adults reduced the risk for UTIs.
Taking daily cranberry supplements or using vaginal probiotics, like lactobacillus, may also help in the prevention of UTIs. Some studiesTrusted Source suggests that using probiotic vaginal suppositories can decrease the occurrence and recurrence of UTIs, by changing the bacteria found in the vagina. Be sure to discuss with your doctor what the right prevention plan is for you.
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