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Urinary Tract Infection: UTI Causes, Symptoms, And Prevention

Urinary Tract Infection

The infection in the urinary tract is called as urinary tract infection. In many cases, infection is caused by the bacteria. Certain virus and fungi also invade the urinary tract causing infection.UTI

Based on the site of infection, UTI are of two types,

  1. Upper urinary tract infection
  2. Lower urinary tract infection.

Upper Urinary Tract Infection: Upper urinary tract consists of kidneys and ureters. Generally, kidneys are infected in upper urinary tract infection.

Lower Urinary Tract Infection: Lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and the urethra. Lower urinary tract infection refers to the infection of bladder and urethra.

What are the Causes of Urinary Tract Infection?

UTI is caused by bacteria that enter the urinary system. Escherichia coli (E. coli), chlamydia and mycoplasma are known to cause urinary tract infection. However, it is also caused by certain fungi and viruses.

Based on the site of infection there are three forms of UTI.

1. Cystitis:

The infection of bladder is called as cystitis. Cystitis is caused by Escherichia coli mainly in females due to the short distance between urethra and anus.

2. Urethritis:

The infection of urethra is called as urethritis. Sexually transmitted diseases causing bacteria, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mycoplasma also cause urethritis.

3. Pyelonephritis:

The infection of kidneys is called as pyelonephritis.

What are the Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection?

The symptoms of UTI vary with the site of infection. It also varies with age and gender.

Site of Infection
Signs and Symptoms
Kidneys·         Pain in upper back and side (flank)

·         High fever with chills

·         Nausea and vomiting
Bladder·         Discomfort in the lower part of the abdomen

·         Pain during urination

·         Blood through urine

·         Sensation of pressure in pelvic area
Urethra·         Burning sensation while  urination

The following are the common signs and symptoms of UTI:

  • Blood in urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Passing small amount of urine frequently
  • Sense of burning at the time of urination
  • Increased urge to urinate

What are the Risk Factors for Urinary Tract Infection?

Many factors are known to increase the risk of urinary tract infection. They include:

  • Elder people are likely to get urinary tract infection
  • Post surgery bed rest and decreased motility
  • Kidney stones
  • Having the history of urinary tract infection
  • Blockage in urinary tract due to enlarged prostate or any form of cancer
  • Indwelling urinary catheter
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary structure abnormalities that occur at the time of birth
  • Poor immune system

The following are the additional risk factors in women for urinary tract infection

  • Pressure on urinary system during sexual intercourse
  • Use of spermicides
  • Friction caused by using non-lubricant latex condom
  • Use of diaphragm would cause pressure on urethra
  • Decreased estrogen levels

What are the Complications of Urinary Tract Infection?

With proper treatment the urinary tract infection can be resolved and the person becomes free of infection. However, when left untreated the following complications can occur:

  • Recurrent infection, especially in women
  • The pregnant woman would deliver a premature baby or baby with low birth weight
  • In case of men, the urethra gets narrowed with recurrent infection
  • Permanent kidney damage
  • Sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by entry of infection into the kidneys

How is Urinary Tract Infection Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is important to identify the cause and site of infection. Appropriate diagnosis makes the treatment easy. The following are the various diagnostic methods:

1. Urine Tests:

The doctor would recommend urine tests to identify the urine abnormalities. It is advised to clean the genital area before the collection of the urine midstream.

2. Culture Tests:

The urine sample is collected and is subjected to culture test in the laboratory. Culture test helps to identify the exact cause of infection.

3. Cystoscopy:

 In this procedure, the doctor inserts a narrow tube fitted with camera into the patient’s bladder to examine the bladder and urethra for the signs of infection.

4. Imaging Tests:

The doctor would recommend certain imaging tests to identify structural abnormalities in the urinary tract. They include:

5. Ultrasound:

This is a non-invasive technique and works with sound waves to create the clear images of internal organs.

 6. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

An MRI uses powerful radio waves and magnetic fields to obtain a detailed image of the targeted organ. In this test, a dye is injected into the patient’s veins.

7. Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan:

In this procedure, the patient is given a contrast substance by mouth or through an intravenous line to facilitate the clear examination of the urinary tract. A CT scan uses X-rays to create a detailed image of urinary tract and also detect structural abnormalities.

How is Urinary Tract Infection Treated?

The treatment of urinary tract infection is based on the cause of infection.

  • In most of the cases, the cause of infection is bacteria. Antibiotics are used to treat the bacterial infections.
  • Antiviral drugs are used to treat the infection caused by virus.
  • Antifungal drugs are used for treating the infection caused by fungi.

Oral antibiotic is used to treat upper urinary tract infections. Lower urinary tract infections would require treatment with intravenous antibiotics.

Culture tests results help in treating the infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

Severe infections would require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous antibiotics.

How is Urinary Tract Infection Prevented?

To some extent it is possible to prevent urinary tract infections. The following are the some of the ways to prevent urinary tract infection:

  • Avoiding diaphragm or spermicide for birth control
  • Avoiding fluids such as alcohol and caffeine which are known to cause bladder irritation
  • Avoiding perfumed products in the genital area
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Keeping the genital area clean
  • Passing the urine shortly after sexual intercourse
  • Taking cranberry supplements and vaginal probiotics on daily basis
  • Using sanitary pads or menstrual cups and not tampons
  • Wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing to keep the area around the urethra dry
  • Wiping from front to back after urinating and bowel movement
  • Voiding the urine whenever required and not holding the urine for longer time

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