What is a urinary tract infection?
An infection that affects any part of the urinary system is known as a urinary tract infection (UTI). The urinary system includes kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. In most cases, infections develop in the lower portion of the urinary tract consisting of the bladder and the urethra. Usually, doctors prescribe antibiotics in order to treat urinary tract infections.
Women have a higher risk of experiencing UTI than men do.
The bladder infection may cause pain and discomfort. Though, the spreading of the infection to your kidneys may lead to severe unpleasant consequences.
Some cases of urinary tract infections are asymptomatic. However, UTI symptoms include:
- Burning sensations during urination
- Urine that has a strong smell
- An urgent and intense need to urinate
- Bloody urine. If there is blood in urine, it may appear bright-pink, red, or even cola-colored.
- One of the UTI symptoms in women is pelvic pain. The painful sensations are especially hard in the area of the pubic zone and the pelvic center.
- Cloudy urine
- Frequent voiding, small urine amount
UTI types and their symptoms
- Cystitis (bladder infection) may cause bloody urine, discomfort in the lower abdomen, pelvic pressure, frequent voiding, and pain during urination.
- Acute pyelonephritis (infection in kidneys) may cause such symptoms as pain in the back or flank, nausea, fever, vomiting, shaking and chills.
- Urethritis (infection in the urethra) cause discharge and burning sensations during urination.
Causes of urinary tract infections
Generally, urinary tract infections develop when bacteria get into the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the bladder. Our urinary tract has a unique defence system that protects the body from such microscopic invaders. However, this defence system fails sometimes, allowing infectious bacteria to enter, multiply inside our body and develop into a full-blown infection of the urinary tract.
Women are at higher risk of the most common UTI, especially cystitis and urethritis.
- Urethritis (infection of the urethra) is caused by Gi bacteria that can spread from the anus to the urethra. In addition, urethritis may occur because of sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mycoplasma or herpes. It is because the vagina is close to the urethra.
- Cystitis (bladder infection) typically develops when Escherichia coli (E.coli) enters the urinary tract. E. coli is a type of bacteria usually found in the gastrointestinal tract. However, other bacteria also can cause cystitis.
It is not necessary to be sexually active to develop cystitis. Women have a higher risk of developing cystitis because of the short distance from the anus to the urethra and the urethral opening to the bladder.
Urinary tract infections risk factors
- Menopause. After menopause, women experience reducing in circulating estrogen. It leads to changes in the urinary tract and increases your vulnerability for UTI.
- Female anatomy. Women have a short urethra in comparison with men. Therefore, the opening of the urethra is close to the bladder, and bacteria can easily pass to it.
- Sexual activity. There are more UTI cases among sexually active women than among women who are not.
- Some types of birth control. Using a diaphragm or spermicidal agents for birth control increases your risk of urinary tract infections.
- Blockage in the urinary tract. Enlarged prostate gland or kidney stones may block normal urine flow from the bladder and raise your risk of UTI.
- Use of the catheter. People who aren’t able to urinate on their own and have to urinate through a tube (catheter) are at an elevated risk of UTIs.
- Weak immune system. Some diseases that weaken the immune system may increase the risk of UTI development. Diabetes is an example of such diseases.
- Urinary tract abnormalities. Babies with congenital urinary tract abnormalities are at higher risk of UTI development. Such abnormalities include an inability for urine to be excreted normally or cause urine to back up in the urethra.
- A recent urinary procedure. If you underwent urinary tract surgery or a urinary tract exam involving medical instruments, you are at higher risk of UTI development.
Usually, the lower urinary tract infections don’t lead to complications if treated properly and in time. However, untreated UTIs may cause serious complications that include:
- Infection can reoccur, especially if a woman developed more than one UTI within six months or four and more UTIs within a year.
- Acute or chronic pyelonephritis due to untreated urinary tract infection may lead to permanent kidney damage.
- UTI in a pregnant woman may increase the risk of delivering a premature infant or infant with low birth weight.
- Recurrent urethritis (infection of the urethra) in men may lead to urethral narrowing.
- Infections can result in sepsis, an extremely serious complication, especially if the infection travels from your urinary tract to your kidneys.
Prevention of urinary tract infection development
Some lifestyle-changing steps may reduce your risk of UTI development. Such measures include drinking enough liquid, escape potentially irritating feminine products, wiping from front to back, urinating soon after intercourse, changing your birth control method, drinking cranberry juice, etc.