Do you experience a burning sensation while you urinate? Do you have a persistent urge to urinate? If yes, then you might be suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and you should see a doctor immediately.
Keep on reading further to get more information on causes, symptoms, and treatment of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
Urinary Tract Infection occurs when some microbes from the skin or rectum enter your urinary tract through the urethra and causes an infection there. These microbes can be bacteria, viruses and, in some rare cases, fungi as well.
It can occur in any part of your urinary tract i.e. kidneys, bladder, ureter and urethra. A woman generally has a shorter urethra than men which means the bacteria has to travel a shorter distance to reach the bladder. This is because the female anatomy is different than men.
What is The Function of Urinary Tract?
Your urinary tract is responsible for separating excretory material from the water you consume that becomes urine and then storing it in your bladder. Your kidneys process and make urine which is then sent through tubes called a ureter into the bladder.
The bladder is a pouch kind of organ that stores urine until you are ready to relieve yourself which is done through an opening which is called urethra.
The infection can be in any part of your urinary tract and can hinder its normal activity. These infections are more common in lower part of the urinary tract i.e. urethra and bladder than in upper part i.e. kidney and ureters. Generally, infections in upper urinary tract are more painful than lower tract.
Accordingly, the infections are given different names based on the location of these infections. The infection in bladder, kidney and urethra is called cystitis, pyelonephritis and urethritis respectively. Infection in ureters are quite rare.
How is Urinary Tract Infection Caused?
The infection is caused by bacteria that live around your anus and in your skin. There are risk factors that increase your chance to be infected by these bacteria. The reasons of UTIs include:
- Frequent sexual activity with multiple partners
- Kidney stones
- Blocked flow of urine
- Poor personal hygiene
- Forms of contraception
- Weak immune system
- Having a urinary catheter
- Prolonged usage of tampons
- Past procedures involving the urinary tract
Urinary Tract Infection in Women:
Women are at higher risk to get UTI than men are. It is because of a few reasons relating to their body anatomy.
When in menopause, the reduced production of estrogen makes the urinary tract more vulnerable to infection.
- Condoms and Sex:
Non-lubricated kind of condoms can cause irritation and friction increases the risk of infection. Frequent sex with multiple partners can also be a cause.
- Location of Urethra:
The location of the urethra is also a reason why women are more prone to this infection. The urethra is in close proximity to both anus and vagina. The likelihood of bacteria from the vagina or anus causing the infection is quite high.
- Birth Control:
Some types of birth control practices can be a way for the tract to be infected by the bacteria.
Spermicides can cause irritation in women and may increase the risk of infection.
- Length of Urethra:
Anatomically, a woman has a shorter urethra than a man’s urethra. The bacteria have a small distance to cover to go into bladder and cause the infection.
- Feminine Hygiene Products:
Use of feminine hygiene products for prolonged periods of time can be another reason.
- Feminine Hygiene Sprays:
Use of feminine hygiene sprays can increase irritation in the body in case of an infection.
Diaphragms can put excessive pressure on urethra causing reduction in urine and bladder emptying.
What Are The Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection?
Symptoms of UTIs include:
- burning sensation with urination
- irritation in the lining of urethra and bladder
- frequent urge to urinate without passing much urine
- blood in urine
- lose control of bladder in some cases
- cloudy urine
- urine that looks like cola or tea
- urine with bad odor
- pelvic pain even in the back, happens more in women
- rectal pain, happens more in men
- upper tract infections may cause back pains, fever, nausea and vomiting like in kidneys, if complicated, the infection can enter bloodstream
These measures can be taken by anyone to reduce the possibility of future infections.
- Drink plenty of fluids every day; 6 to 8 glasses per day.
- Take showers rather than baths.
- Don’t hold in your urine for long periods of time
- Keep the genital area clean and dry.
- Use cotton undergarments instead of nylon.
- Urinate right after intercourse.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Clean thoroughly after urinating, wipe from front and bowel movements.
- Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any discomfort during urination.
Women should take more care of their health as they are at high risk. Women can:
- Consult doctors on the safe use of contraceptives
- Take estrogen, if menopausal, prescribed by the doctor to prevent UTI
- Use feminine hygiene products that are safe
Diagnosis of UTI
If you see blood in urine or experience pain while urinating, you should see your doctor immediately. There can be other reasons for blood in urine than Urinary Tract Infection, but it is always a good idea to go see a doctor to rule out any possibility of bigger issue.
If you experience fever, vomiting and nausea that is not going away despite medication, you should see a doctor for the possibility of UTI.
Your doctor can easily diagnose UTI by the hep of a simple urine test. Presence of white blood cells is an indication of presence of an infection. The presence of microbes in the urine might also be an indication.
In order to ensure that those microbes come from inside your urine and not your skin, doctors recommend a ‘clean catch’. A clean catch is when you collect urine in the middle of the stream not the beginning. There is a chance that bodily bacteria and other microbes around urethra can become part of urine sample if you collect at the beginning.
Your doctor can also take urine culture which can be used to identify the microbe causing the infection. This can help your doctor prescribe the right treatment for you.
If a virus is likely to be cause of an infection, some specialised tests are to be performed to treat it. Viruses that cause such an infection are quite rare. It normally occurs in people with suppressed immune system or people who had a transplant.
Urinary Tract Infections, depending on the microbe causing the infection, can be treated with medications. Antibiotics can be used if the microbe is bacteria. Antivirals and antifungals can treat viral and fungal infections respectively.
The course of antibiotics is up to a week. However, if a person develops resistance to antibiotics, the course of antibiotics might become shorter.
Generally, lower urinary tract infection is treated easily than upper urinary tract infection. Antibiotics can be taken orally for infection in lower part but for upper part the medicine has to be injected intravenously.
There are two types of UTIs: simple and complicated.
This can be treated with antibiotics for a short period of time i.e. 3 days. It can also take longer in some cases. It is imperative that you complete the course of medication even if you start feeling better because it defeats the purpose of an antibiotic.
This type normally takes longer to be treated. A longer antibiotics treatment is required. The patient might have to go to hospitals or medical center as the medications must be injected intravenously in some cases. Upper urinary tract infections i.e. kidney infections are treated as such.
What To Expect After The Treatment?
After your treatment, your symptoms will be resolved slowly. If you have had complicated UTI, you might have to do urine culture again to make sure the problem is not there anymore.
UTIs have a tendency to keep recurring so it is important that you keep following preventive care after you have been treated. Preventive care includes drinking plenty of water. Women are more likely to have recurring UTIs so they should take better care of themselves.
If you keep getting UTIs repeatedly, you should consult your doctor. The doctor can prescribe you a longer treatment to completely treat the infection.
Pregnancy and Urinary Tract Infections:
Urinary Tract Infections during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. It can cause high blood pressure and premature delivery. This infection during pregnancy is more likely to spread to kidneys than otherwise. This can put both mother and child at risk.
If you are pregnant and experience some kind of symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection, you should immediately seek consultation with your doctor.
Prevention is better than Treatment.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) can disrupt your daily activities. It is important that you remain mindful of your everyday life activities that can cause this infection. If you had it already, take extra care so that it does not return and disturb your life and your loved ones’ life. Prevention is better than treatment.