A urinary tract infection refers to an infection that occurs along any part of the urinary pathway.
The urinary pathway includes the urethra, kidneys, ureters and bladder. Urinary infections affect the bladder and urethra most often.
- Urinary infections are more common in women than men.
- However, men are still vulnerable to infections.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria — often Escherichia coli — that enter the urinary tract through the urethra. Harmful bacteria often reach the urethra from the anus of the same individual, although sexual contact can also spread urinary tract infections. This type of spreading is more likely with a new sexual partner. Other causes of urinary tract infections can include immune disorders, catheter use, medical procedures, and physical obstructions of the urinary tract.
Some patients are prone to frequent urinary tract infections. The presence of stones in the bladder or kidney can cause persistent infections. They may also be caused by anything that impacts the shape of the urinary tract or affects its function. Some patients may also have an inherited increased risk of infection.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection
Patients with urinary tract infections often have a burning sensation during urination. This is typically accompanied by an intense urge to urinate that won’t go away, along with frequent trips to the bathroom which only result in a small amount of urine being passed. Urine may appear cloudy or have blood mixed in, giving it a pink to brownish color. Sufferers of a urinary tract infection may exhibit flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and body chills.
Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection
The usual treatment for a urinary tract infection is a course of antibiotics. Pain medication may be prescribed, but often self-care at home is enough to keep symptoms under control. Heat packs and over-the-counter pain medications may be helpful, along with keeping well-hydrated. Usually the symptoms will begin to subside within a few days on antibiotics, though it is important to take the full course as prescribed. In cases of severe infection, intravenous antibiotics may need to be administered.
Recurring infections require investigation and treatment of the cause. A doctor may perform blood and imaging tests to determine what else might be going on. Often those with recurring urinary tract infections can be treated with a longer term course of antibiotics. For recurring infections that are caused by a physical abnormality, surgery may be required. This is less common, and most patients do not require surgery.