Urinary Tract Infection: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

urinary tract infection

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection is an infection associated with any part of your urinary systems like your bladder, kidneys, urethra, and ureters. The infection affects mostly the lower urinary tract such as the urethra and the bladder.

Women are usually at higher risk of contracting UTI than men. Severe consequences can occur if a UTI spreads to your kidney but infection restricted to your bladder can be painful and annoying. About 1 in 5 women do experience a second urinary tract infection, while some are plagued continuously.

Usually, a different strain or type of bacteria is found in this case. Some types of urinary tract infection may enter the body’s cells and form a community resistant to both the immune system and the antibiotics.

Urinary tract infections are mostly treated with antibiotics but they are steps you can follow to help reduce your chance of contracting this disease.

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What are the types of urinary tract infections?

The type of UTI may depend on the area of your urinary tract infected with each type having its own precise signs and symptoms. It includes the following

Acute pyelonephritis

This type of urinary tract infection affects the kidney. Its signs and symptoms are:

  • The feeling of high fever
  • Nauseating feelings
  • Pains around the flank (side) and upper back of your body
  • Chills and shaking
  • Vomiting

Urethritis

This particular urinary tract infection affects mainly the urethra. Here are the signs and symptoms:

  • Foamy discharge
  • Feelings of burning sensation while urinating

Cystitis

This type of urinary tract infection affects the bladder. The following are its signs and symptoms:

  • Feelings of pains around the lower abdomen
  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Incessant painful urination

When you can see a doctor

Immediately visit your medical doctor if you experience any of the above signs and symptoms of a UTI.

Signs and symptoms of urinary tract infection

Signs and symptoms of UTIs are not always noticeable in its early stage but you may experience the following signs and symptoms between 4 weeks to 12 weeks.

  • Feelings of a burning sensation while urinating
  • Passing out urine that appears cloudy
  • Urine with a strong pungent smell
  • Having the frequent urge to urinate
  • Passing out small amounts of urine always
  • Experiencing blood in the urine making the urine appears bright pink, red, or cola-colored
  • Feelings of pains around the pelvic region, usually in the center of the pelvis

In some cases, UTIs may be mistaken for other medical condition, especially amongst older adults.

Causes of UTI

Urinary tract infections usually surface when bacteria invade the urinary tract through the urethra and starts replicating in the bladder. The human urinary system is designed in such a way that it shields microorganisms from penetrating it. But in a situation where it fails in its function, bacteria may happily swim into the urinary system and grows into a full-blown infection there.

Most at times, the most prevalent UTIs are found in women and attack the urethra and the bladder.

Urethritis (infection associated with the urethra)

It is found when gastrointestinal bacteria are being transmitted from the anus to the urethra. Since the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, herpes, mycoplasma, and Chlamydia can bring about urethritis.

Cystitis (infection associated with the bladder)

Cystitis is caused by E. coli (Escherichia coli), a type of bacteria prevalent in the gastrointestinal tract of a human. But sometimes, other bacteria may be responsible for this infection.

Also, you may contract cystitis from engaging in unprotected sex with an infected partner as women are at a higher chance of contracting it because of the closeness of the urethra to their anus/the urethral opening to the bladder.

Read Also: Sepsis And Urinary Tract Infection

Its risk factors

Many women tend to have more than one infection during their lifetimes as this is why UTIs is more prevalent amongst women. The following are the risk factors of urinary tract infections specific to women:

Sexual activity

Women who are sexually active or have multiple partners are more vulnerable to UTIs.

Menopause

Women who have attained menopause stage are prone to contracting urinary tract infection as the decline in their circulating estrogen lead to a change in their urinary tract.

Body of women

The closeness of a women urethra to the bladder makes it easier for bacteria to enter her bladder.

Usage of certain birth control method

Women who use certain types of birth control like diaphragms and spermicidal agents are at higher risk of having urinary tract infection.

Other risk factors for UTIs

You can also contract UTI through any of the following ways:

  • Blockage around the urinary tract: Enlarged prostate and kidney stones may impede the passage of urine from the bladder which eventually makes you vulnerable to the urinary tract infection.
  • Use of catheter: Catheter is a tube a person who can’t pass out urine uses to urinate as this make him or her vulnerable to UTIs. People who are paralyzed or have neurological impairment also find it difficult to control their ability to pass out urine making them easily susceptible to UTIs.
  • Having urinary tract abnormalities: It affects babies or persons born with an abnormal urinary tract that doesn’t allow easy passage of urine from the body or cause urine to back up in the urethra are prone to having UTIs.
  • People with weakened immune systems: Usually diabetic patients whose immune systems are weakened are exposed to several germs increasing their risk of having UTIs.
  • Urinary surgery or examination: Urinary examination or surgery performed using any medical devices can increase your chance of developing a urinary tract infection.

Urinary tract infection complications

If your UTI isn’t diagnosed quickly and treated properly, it can bring about more severe problems. Urinary tract infection complications include the following:

  • Permanent damage of the kidney from an acute or chronic kidney infection as a result of an untreated urinary tract infection.
  • Narrowing of the urethra in men as a result of recurrent urethritis, previously found with gonococcal urethritis.
  • Recurrent infections amongst women who have had 2 or more UTIs in the past six months or more within a year.
  • Pregnant women with a high risk of delivering premature infants or infants with low birth weight.
  • A potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, especially if the infection works its way up into your urinary tract through to your kidneys.
Diagnosis of UTI

Its diagnosis may include the following:

Testing of urine samples

You may be asked to provide a urine sample for laboratory analysis to check for red blood cells, white blood cells, or bacteria as directed by your doctor. The aseptic pad will be used to avoid contamination of the urine and to collect the urine midstream.

Checking images of your urinary tract

A situation where the infections fail to go away and your doctor assumes it may be due to an abnormality in your urinary tract, you may be asked to undergo CT (computerized tomography) scan, ultrasound or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Sometimes your doctor may recommend you perform a contrast dye to highlight structures in your urinary tract.

Performing urine culture

This test is carried out alongside urine analysis to ascertain what bacteria are causing the infection and which antibiotics will be most effective for its treatment.

urinary tract infection

Use of cystoscope

If your UTIs is recurrent, you may be asked to undergo cystoscopy to help your doctor have a clear vision of the inside of your bladder and urethra. The cystoscope is mainly inserted in your urethra and passed through to your bladder without causing any harm or injury to you. We have both male and female cystoscope using for checking male and female patients in the hospital.

Treatment of urinary tract infection

The first thing always employed in the treatment of UTI is the use of antibiotics. Prescription of the drugs depends on your health condition and the type of bacteria present in your urine. The following drugs are used for treating simple infections:

  • Fosfomycin (Monurol)
  • Cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Trimethoprim and Sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim and Septra)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin and Macrobid)
  • Ceftriaxone

Antibiotics like levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin are not advisable to be taken for a simple urinary tract infection because they have greater risks to your health than its benefit. If it is a kidney infection or complicated urinary tract infection, your doctor might recommend you take fluoroquinolone if no alternative treatments exist.

Most at times, your symptoms may go away within a few days of taking the medication. But that doesn’t mean you should discontinue the antibiotics as it is advisable to continue antibiotics for at least a week or more for optimal treatment.

Consequently, most doctors do prescribe a pain medication to help numb your bladder and urethra to relieve burning sensation while urinating as the pain is relieved immediately after taking your medications.  

Furthermore, your doctor may recommend you take antibiotics for at least 2-4d days if it is an uncomplicated urinary tract infection. Even with that, your treatment depends on the certain symptoms you experienced and medical history.

Incessant infections

In a situation where you have incessant UTIs, your doctor may recommend the following treatment:

  • Self-diagnosis and treatment, if you are always in touch with your doctor
  • Therapy associated with vaginal estrogen especially if you are postmenopausal
  • Small-dosage of antibiotics, usually for six months in its initial stage but sometimes may last longer

In a situation where your infections are due to sexual activity, your doctor will prescribe a single dose of an antibiotic after lovemaking.

If your urinary tract infection is a chronic one, you may be given treatment alongside intravenous antibiotics in the hospital.

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Prevention of urinary tract infection

If you really want to reduce your chance of having urinary tract infections then you can adhere to the following tips:

  • Try drinking cranberry juice even though researches are not conclusive that it can prevent UTIs, it is really not harmful to the body.
  • Always urinate immediately after intercourse and also drink at least a glass cup of water to help flush bacteria from your body.
  • Try changing your birth control methods like unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms/diaphragms as they can favor the growth of bacteria.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene like wiping from front to back especially after a bowel movement or urinating as it helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from transferring easily to the vagina and urethra.
  • Do away with any irritating feminine products like douches and powders around the genital area to avoid the spread of bacteria to the urethra.
Summary

Now that you have known the causes and prevention of UTIs, you can apply a warm but not hot heating pad to your abdomen to reduce bladder pressure or discomfort. It is advisable not to drink cranberry juice especially when you are taking blood-thinning medication like warfarin.

Also, you can cultivate the habit of drinking enough water as it helps dilute your urine and enables you to pass out urine more frequently; allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can surface.

Before your appointment with your doctor, you are advised to write down any question you want to ask your doctor, provide your doctor with all the vitamins or supplements you’ve taken, and note all the signs and symptoms you experience to enable the doctor to prescribe the best treatment for you.