Urinary tract includes kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. Infection can occur in any part of the urinary tract and more women than men are prone to develop UTI. It may cause burning sensation while urinating and one may often have urge to pass urine frequently. Bacteria are the main cause for UTI and treatment involves strong antibiotics for destroying bacteria.
Organs Of Urinary Tract :
Before knowing more information about the symptoms, causes and risk factors of UTI you need to understand about its organs.
- Kidneys (2 in no.) are the vital organs that eliminate wastes and other toxic substances from the body. It also filters and removes excess of water from the blood. In addition to these, kidneys are involved in regulating blood pressure. Kidneys can easily be damaged due to increased blood sugar levels and hypertension (blood pressure).
- Ureters are long narrow tubing measuring 10-12 inches in length which delivers the urine collected from the kidney to the bladder.
- Bladder is a small pouch meant for collecting and storing urine. When the bladder gets almost full the person would have the urge to pass urine. Bladder muscles contract automatically to expel the urine.
- Finally the urethra is a tube through which urine is expelled.
UTI can affect any of the above parts. Upper UTI affects the kidneys and ureters and lower UTI affects bladder and urethra. More than 7 million people have urinary tract infection in the USA alone each year. It ranks 2nd after respiratory tract infection among the various kinds of infection affecting people. Often adult are likely to develop UTI but rarely children may also get UTI.
Not all kinds of UTI would have visible signs. Moderate form of UTI may show symptoms like persistent urge to pass urine, burning pain while urinating and passing urine frequently in small amounts. Urine would be more or less cloudy and would contain trace of blood in it for some people. Urine may be foul smelling if the infection is severe.
Depending on the part of the urinary tract physical symptoms of UTI may differ. If kidneys are infected it can cause symptoms including high fever, nausea, vomiting, upper back pain and chills. If bladder gets infected it might cause symptoms like pain in the lower abdomen, frequent urge to pass urine and pain due to pelvic pressure. Burning sensation, while urinating is the common symptom if urethra gets infected. It might also cause white milky discharge in women.
Bacteria always live in our body and the infection starts only if bad bacteria multiplies more in number than good bacteria. Our body is tuned to fight back against bad bacteria but sometimes immunity may get weak due to illness and other factors. The entire volumes of bacteria will not be eliminated in the urine and some of them would invade causing infection of urethra and bladder. Urethritis (infection of urethra) and cystitis (bladder infection) are the two most common type of UTI caused by E.coli bacteria.
Who Are At Risk?
- Women are more likely to develop UTI than men owing to their anatomy. The opening of urethra lies close to bladder for women.
- Women who are sexually active and have multiple sex partners are at high risk of developing UTI.
- People living with certain complicated conditions like spinal cord injury and suppressed immune systems (like undergoing chemo or radiation therapy for cancer) are at risk of getting UTI.
- Women using diaphragm for birth control are more likely to develop this infection than others.
- Men whose urethra is longer and those with enlarged prostate are at increased risk of getting UTI.
- Young children who are not toilet trained properly and infants can also develop urinary tract infection.
- People living with catheter (for draining urine) for long term are likely to get UTI.
- Infants born with abnormalities in urinary tract are prone to get UTI.
- If left untreated, UTI can damage the kidney causing severe kidney infection.
Based on the symptoms, your doctor may order for urine analysis to check for the presence of abnormal white blood cells or bacteria in it. For people with recurrent UTI the doctor may insist on checking the tract with CT assisted scan or MRI scan.
Antibiotics are the first line treatment for UTI. Depending on the intensity of infection suitable strengths of antibiotics are prescribed. Some of the commonly recommended drugs include Azithromycin, Levofloxacin, cephalexin, Trimethoprim, ciprofloxacin and doxycycline. Most of the symptoms would be managed after starting antibiotics. But you need to complete the course of medication as suggested by the doctor failing which infection can recur.
For people with frequent UTI infection, doctor would prescribe antibiotics (of low strength) for months together. Women in menopause can voluntarily check with their doctor to prevent any infection. In-patient treatment is needed only for severely infected cases and antibiotics are given through intravenous form for getting quick result. Follow up or regular check-up is needed for patients with frequent infections.
Home Remedies :
- If you are having infections take plenty of fluids to dilute the urine which can help in controlling burning sensation.
- Eat soft foods and avoid fried and fatty items.
Tips For Prevention :
- Drink lots of liquids and follow toilet hygiene.
- Wash your vagina after each intercourse and empty your bladder fully after having sex.
- Practice safe sex and avoid multiple partners.