What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. Most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, but sometimes they are caused by fungi and in rare cases by viruses. If you are a woman, the chance of developing a urinary tract is higher than men.
What are the symptoms of urinary tract infections?
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Frequent or strong urge to urinate, even though you have difficulty doing so
- Bloody or smelly urine
- Feeling tired or unstable
- Fever or chills (a sign that the infection may have reached your kidneys)
- Pain or pressure in the waist or lower abdomen
What types of urinary tract infections are there?
An infection can occur in different parts of the urinary system. Each type has a different name, depending on where it is located.
- Cystitis (bladder): It is the most common form of infection in the bladder. You may feel that you have to urinate a lot or you may feel pain when you urinate. You may also have lower abdominal pain and cloudy or bloody urine.
- Pyelonephritis (kidneys): A particularly dangerous condition that affects up to the kidneys and can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and pain in your upper back or side.
- Urethritis (urethra): May cause discharge and burning when urinating. It is more likely in men.
What are the causes of urinary tract infections?
In women, the urethra – the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body – is close to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, can sometimes come out of the anus and move into the urethra. From there, they can travel to the bladder and if the infection is not treated, it can continue to infect the kidneys. Women have smaller urethra than men. This makes it easier for the bacteria to reach their bladders.
Bacteria can also enter the urinary tract through sexual contact.
Some women are more likely to get a urinary tract infection because of their genes. The shape of the urinary tract plays an important role in increasing the chance of infection. Women with diabetes may be at higher risk because their weakened immune systems make them less able to fight infections.
Other conditions that can increase the risk include hormone changes, multiple sclerosis and anything that affects the flow of urine, such as kidney stones, stroke and spinal cord injury.
How is a urinary tract infection diagnosed?
If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, see a doctor. You will be given a urine sample to test for bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
If you have frequent urinary tract infections and your doctor suspects there is a problem with your urethra, they may take a closer look at an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan. They can also use a long, thin hose called a cystoscope to look inside the urethra and bladder.
How is a urinary tract infection treated?
If your doctor thinks you need them, antibiotics are the most common treatment for urinary tract infections. As always, make sure you take all your prescription medications, even when you start to feel better. Drink plenty of water to get rid of bacteria from your body. Your doctor may also give you medication to relieve the pain.
Chronic Urinary Tract Infection
If a man has a urinary tract infection, he is likely to get it again. About 1 in 5 women suffer from a second urinary tract infection and some of them recur. In most cases, each infection is caused by a different type or strain of bacteria. But some bacteria can invade your body cells and multiply, creating a colony of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They then travel out of the cells and invade the urinary system again.
If you have three or more urinary tract infections a year, ask your doctor to recommend a treatment plan. Some options include:
- Low dose antibiotic for a longer period of time to prevent recurrent infections
- Antibiotics for 1 or 2 days whenever symptoms occur
- A prevention treatment with non-antibiotics
How to prevent the recurrence of urinary tract infections?
The following tips can help you prevent future urinary tract infections:
Empty your bladder often as soon as you feel the need to urinate. Do not rush and make sure you have completely emptied your bladder.
- Be careful to clean the sensitive area after using the toilet to prevent germs from moving from the anus to the urethra.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Choose shower over bath.
- Avoid swimming pools as they increase the chance of being infected by a germ and therefore the occurrence of a urinary tract infection.
- Stay away from scented feminine hygiene products, scented showers and scented toiletries. They increase irritation and cause changes in the normal pH of the sensitive area.
- Keep the genital area dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing. Do not wear tight jeans and nylon underwear. They can trap moisture, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.
- About sexual intercourse: Good hygiene is required on the part of both partners, in order to reduce the risk of transmitting germs. In addition, if you belong to the category of people who often get urinary tract infections, make sure you urinate every time before and after the operation.