What Is A Urinary Tract Infection?

The urinary system extracts waste products, disinfects the body and keeps its fluid levels balanced. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is the second most common type of human infection. It occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract. The intestinal bacteria, Escherichia coli is the cause of almost 90% of urinary tract infections.

Types of UTI

There are several different types of UTO, including:

  • Urethritis: a bacterial infection of the urethra.
  • Cystitis: a bacterial bladder infection that has spread from the urethra.
  • Pyelonephritis: a bacterial kidney infection resulting from the spread of bacteria from the bladder or urinary tract.

Common causes of urinary tract infections

Women are particularly susceptible to UTIs. 1 in 5 women will develop a UTI during her lifetime. The main reason for this is because women’s urethras are shorter than men’s and therefore more prone to contact with bacteria from the anus and vagina. Infrequent urination can also cause cystitis.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections

Symptoms of a UTI may include frequent urges to urinate, burning or pain during urination, and shakiness, tiredness, or fever. In more severe cases there may be blood in the urine. If the UTI causes a kidney infection, additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, back pain and fever.

Treatment for UTI

When a patient is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, the doctor will usually prescribe a course of oral antibiotics and recommend that the patient drinks plenty of fluids to ensure regular urination. If the condition worsens or recurs, a more prolonged course of antibiotic treatment may be needed.

Though this complication is uncommon, if the infection affects the kidneys, hospital care may be required. Individuals are a greater risk of UTI complications if they have a compromised immune system, they suffer from diabetes, or they have another condition which affects the bladder or kidneys.

Preventing urinary tract infections

It is possible to minimize the risk of UTIs by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, avoiding long intervals between urination. When using the bathroom, women should always wipe from front to back, change sanitary napkins often, and use a fresh washcloth for every shower. Women should also be careful to avoid feminine hygiene products containing deodorants

Frequent UTIs

Some women may suffer from chronic UTIs. Contributing factors may include bladder or kidney stones, bacteria entering the urethra during sexual intercourse, and estrogen fluctuations during menopause. Chronic UTIs may also be caused by an abnormal urinary tract or a genetic disposition to UTIs.

Women who have had two or more diagnosed bladder infections during a six-month period should see a doctor to find the underlying cause.