A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects part of the urinary tract. They are more common in women than men. When it affects the lower urinary tract it is known as a bladder infection (cystitis) and when it affects the upper urinary tract it is known as kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
Signs and Symptoms:
Symptoms from a lower urinary tract include pain with urination, frequent urination, and feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder. Symptoms of a kidney infection include fever and flank pain usually in addition to the symptoms of a lower UTI. Rarely the urine may appear bloody.
The most common cause of infection is Escherichia Coli though other bacteria or fungi may rarely be the cause.
How Do UTIs Begin?
Many types of bacteria live in the intestines and genital area, but this is not true of the urinary system. In fact, urine is sterile. So when errant bacteria, such as the E. coli shown here, is accidentally introduced into the urinary system, it can start a UTI. Typically, bacteria travel up the urethra to the bladder, where an infection can take hold. Women are more susceptible than men, probably because they have shorter urethras.
What Boosts Your Risk?
UTIs are most common in sexually active women. Other factors that may increase your risk include:
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Taking frequent tub baths, regular swimming in unhygienic pools.
• Holding urine in the bladder too long
• Kidney stones
Few things can ruin a honeymoon like a UTI. But this is so common, it has its own name — “honeymoon cystitis.” The reason is that sexual activity can push bacteria into the urethra. Of course, the problem is not confined to honeymoons. Some women get a bladder infection almost every time they have sex.
When to See Your Doctor
See your doctor right away if you have signs of a urinary tract infection. A bladder infection is generally not a medical emergency — but some people have a higher risk for complications. This includes pregnant women, the elderly, and men, as well as people with diabetes, kidney problems, or a weakened immune system.
The first step in diagnosing a UTI is usually a simple urine test called a urinalysis. It looks for bacteria, as well as abnormal counts of white and red blood cells. The dipstick test provides quick results. Your doctor may also send urine to a lab for culture to confirm the type of bacteria. At-home test kits can help detect a UTI, but are not 100% accurate.
Treatment of UTI
In uncomplicated cases, UTIs are treated with a short course of antibiotics .Resistance to many of the antibiotics used to treat this condition is increasing. In complicated cases, a longer course or intravenous antibiotics may be needed. If symptoms do not improve in two or three days, further diagnostic testing may be needed.
Urinary Tract Infections in Men
Men are much less likely than women to get UTIs. When it does happen, it’s often related to another underlying medical condition, such as a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate.
UTIs and Diabetes
People with diabetes are more vulnerable to UTIs for several reasons. First, their immune systems tend to be weaker. Second, high blood sugar can spill into the urine and encourage the growth of bacteria. Also, nerve damage related to diabetes can prevent the bladder from fully emptying. People with diabetes should talk with their doctor at the first sign of a UTI.
UTIs and Pregnancy
During pregnancy, there are several factors that boost the risk of UTIs, especially a kidney infection. Hormones cause changes in the urinary tract, and the uterus may put pressure on the ureters or bladder or both — making it more difficult for urine to pass from the kidneys to the bladder and out. Untreated UTIs can contribute to preterm labor, so be sure to alert your doctor if you suspect you have an infection.
UTIs and Menopause
Estrogen has a protective effect in the urinary tract, but levels of this hormone drop off significantly during menopause. Low estrogen levels can make it easier for bacteria to thrive in the vagina or urethra. For this reason, women may be more susceptible to UTIs after menopause.
UTIs in the Elderly
UTIs are among the most common infections in the elderly. But the symptoms may not follow the classic pattern. Agitation, delirium, or other behavioral changes may be the only sign of a UTI in elderly men and women. This age group is also more likely to develop serious complications as a result of UTIs.
UTIs in Infants
Babies occasionally develop UTIs, but they can’t tell you what they feel. Here are some signs to watch for:
• An unexplained fever
• Strange-smelling urine
• Poor appetite or vomiting
• Fussy behavior
It’s vital to treat a baby’s UTI quickly to prevent kidney damage. Promptly changing a dirty diaper can help prevent bladder infections. And of course, wipe from front to back whenever changing a baby’s diaper.
Here are several strategies to reduce the risk of UTIs:
• Drink plenty of water.
• Visit the toilet before and after sex.
• Wipe from front to back.
• Avoid feminine hygiene sprays.
• Take showers instead of tub baths.