Infections of the urinary tract are caused by microbes such as bacteria which overcome the defenses of the body in the urinary tract. They can affect the kidneys, the bladder, and the tubes running in between.
They are one of the most common forms of infection and account for around 8.1 million doctor visits each year.
The urinary tract can be divided up into the upper and lower urinary tracts. The upper urinary tract consists of the kidneys and ureters, and the lower urinary tract consists of the urethra and the bladder.
Facts on urinary tract infections
Here are some key points about infection of the urinary tract. The main article contains more details and supporting information.
- Women have a lifetime risk of over 50 percent of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Common symptoms include a strong, frequent urge to urinate and a painful and burning sensation when urinating.
- A UTI is usually diagnosed based on symptoms and testing of a urine sample.
- UTIs can be cured with 2 to 3 days of treatment.
- Cranberry extracts do not treat UTIs but may help reduce the risk of recurrent UTI.
The vast majority of urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium which is usually found in the digestive system. Chlamydia and mycoplasma bacteria may invade the bladder but not the urethra.
UTIs are given names which vary depending on where they occur. For instance:
- A bladder infection is called cystitis.
- A urethra infection is called urethritis.
- A kidney infection is called pyelonephritis.
The ureters are the site of infection quite rarely.
More than 50 percent of all women will experience at least one UTI during their lifetime, with recurring UTIs experiencing 20 to 30 percent.
Pregnant women are not more likely to develop an UTI than other women, but they are more likely to travel up to the kidneys if one does occur. This is because changes in the body which affect the urinary tract during pregnancy.
As an UTI during pregnancy can be dangerous for both maternal and infant health, most pregnant women are tested for the presence of bacteria in their urine, even though there are no symptoms, and treated with antibiotics to prevent spread.
People of whatever age and sex can develop an UTI. Many people are at greater risk than others though. The following factors may increase the chances of developing an UTI:
- sexual intercourse, especially if more frequent, intense, and with multiple or new partners
- poor personal hygiene
- problems emptying the bladder completely
- having a urinary catheter
- bowel incontinence
- blocked flow of urine
- kidney stones
- some forms of contraception
- procedures involving the urinary tract
- suppressed immune system
- immobility for a long period
- use of spermicides and tampons
- heavy use of antibiotics, which can disrupt the natural flora of the bowel and urinary tract
A UTI’s symptoms will depend on age, gender, catheter presence and what part of the urinary tract has been infected.
Common symptoms of a UTI include:
- strong and frequent urge to urinate
- cloudy, bloody, or strong-smelling urine
- pain or a burning sensation when urinating
- nausea and vomiting
- muscle aches and abdominal pains
People with catheters can feel fever only as a symptom, making it harder to diagnose.
Acute pyelonephritis is a sudden and serious inflammation of the kidneys. If a person develops this condition they may also experience pain in the upper back and side, high fever, sweating, chills, exhaustion, and mental changes. It is deemed an emergency, and should be treated immediately by a doctor when suspected
If a person has a bladder infection, they could also experience low fever, and pressure and cramping in the abdomen and lower back.
Most UTIs are not serious, but some can lead to serious problems, particularly with upper UTIs.
Recurrent or long-lasting kidney infections can cause permanent damage, and some sudden kidney infections can be life-threatening, particularly if bacteria enter the bloodstream in a condition known as septicemia.
They can also increase the risk of women delivering infants that are premature or have a low birth weight.
Several measures can be taken to lower the risk of developing a UTI:
- Drink lots of water and urinate frequently.
- Avoid fluids such as alcohol and caffeine that can irritate the bladder.
- Urinate shortly after sex.
- Wipe from front to back after urinating and bowel movement.
- Keep the genital area clean.
- Showers are preferred to baths and avoid using oils.
- Sanitary pads or menstrual cups are preferred to tampons.
- Avoid using a diaphragm or spermicide for birth control.
- Avoid using any perfumed products in the genital area.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing to keep the area around the urethra dry.
Individuals are recommended to contact a doctor if they develop symptoms of an UTI, particularly if the symptoms of a possible kidney infection have developed.
Normally, diagnosis will be made after inquiring about the symptoms and tests a sample of urine to determine the presence of white blood cells, red blood cells and bacteria.
A “clean catch” method is used to collect urine. This allows an person to wash their genital area before providing a mid-flow urine sample. This helps prevent bacteria from getting caught in the sample from all around the genital area.
If a person has repeated UTIs, a doctor can ask for further diagnostic testing to decide if anatomical problems or functional problems are to blame. Such tests could include:
- Diagnostic imaging: This involves assessing the urinary tract using ultrasound, CT and MRI scanning, radiation tracking, or X-rays.
- Urodynamics: This procedure determines how well the urinary tract is storing and releasing urine.
- Cystoscopy: This diagnostic exam allows the doctor to see inside the bladder and urethra with a camera lens, which inserted through the urethra through a long thin tube.
Men’s UTIs are unusual. The rate is between 5 and 8 people in every 10,000 by men under the age of 50 years. Infection risk increases with age.
If men develop a UTI, it will infect a woman with the same organs and areas as a UTI should. The penis, however, is also at risk of infection for men.
It is less likely that a man with a circumcised penis will get a UTI than a man who has not been circumcised.
Methods of treatment would be similar to those used for women with UTIs.
Because UTIs are usually caused by bacteria, antibiotics or antimicrobials are most commonly used to treat them.
The type and duration of treatment of the drug would depend on the individual’s symptoms and medical history.
The full course of treatment in UTIs should always be followed to ensure that the infection is completely clear, and to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. Symptoms of UTI may go away before the infection is completely gone.
In those who have UTIs, drinking lots of fluids and often urinating is always advised, as this helps to flush out the bacteria.
A variety of pain relief medications may be prescribed to alleviate pain. Applying a heating pad to the back or abdomen can also help.
An uncomplicated UTI is one that occurs in an otherwise healthy person with a normal clear urinary tract. These can usually be cured with 2 to 3 days of treatment.
A complicated UTI is one that occurs in a person who is weakened by another condition, such as pregnancy or heart transplant. Complicated UTIs tend to require longer periods of antibiotics, usually between 7 to 14 days.
The underlying issue needs to be identified and corrected to cure a UTI that is caused by problems within the urinary system. Those infections can lead to kidney damage if left untreated.
If the person is seriously ill they may need to be admitted to a hospital to make sure they take enough fluids and get the right medication. Patients will even need to go to the hospital if they’re one of:
- pregnant and are otherwise ill
- older adults
- people with cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, or other medical problems
- individuals with kidney stones or other changes in their urinary tract
- recovering from recent urinary tract surgery
Recurrent infections in women
Women who have recurrent bladder infections may be advised to:
- Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact
- Take a single, daily dose of an antibiotic for at least 6 months
- Take a 2-to-3-day course of an antibiotic if symptoms reappear
- Undergo vaginal estrogen therapy if they have already had menopause
There are a number of suggested remedies that can be tried at home by people with a UTI
Drinking fluids and frequently urinating can help flush out bacteria from the body, and using a heated pad for short periods of time can help relieve discomfort.
Cranberries and their extracts may also be treated with UTI, is also often said.
Extracts of cranberries do not help to treat current UTIs but may help to prevent their growth.
This is because cranberries contain E-preventing compounds called proanthocyanidins. The coli stick to the digestive and urinary tract walls.
Researchers found in a major meta-analysis that women with chronic UTIs who took cranberry for 12 months had an infection reduction of 35 per cent.
Another major clinical trial showed that 500 milligrams (mg) of cranberry extract taken daily for 6 months reduced the rate of UTI in women with recurrent UTIs to the same degree as 100 mg of trimethoprim, an antibiotic, without posing a risk of antimicrobial resistance or super-infection.
Cranberry extract tablets seem twice as effective as cranberry juice to avoid UTIs, which may be due in part to cranberry juice’s sugar content. Extracts of the cranberry also contain anthocyanins and salicylic acid. This can be awkward
The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests cranberry products for prevent chronic UTIs, but not for use in active UTIs.
For determine the suitability of these drugs, it is recommended that you talk to a doctor.
Changes in the genitourinary tract’s bacterial balance can increase the likelihood that organisms such as E can colonise. Coli. Coli. Regular use of probiotics can help to lower the risk of UTIs, especially after an antibiotic course.
Probiotics as food products, such as yogurts,
Bifidobacterium longum in particular has demonstrated an ability to prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to the walls of the intestinal tract, in addition to improving the development of natural antibacterial chemicals and organic acids, thereby reducing the likelihood of UTI.