A urinary tract infection occurs when microbes gets into any part of the urinary tract, i.e. the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra.
Commonly UTI occurs mainly in the urethra (urethritis) and bladder (cystitis) i.e. the lower urinary tract. In severe and rare cases however, UTI can also occur in the upper urinary tract. Infection in the upper urinary tract generally affects the kidneys (pyelonephritis) and at times the ureters.
Most of the UTIs are caused by bacteria and some are caused by fungi or viruses.
What are the causes and risk factors of UTI?
Urinary tract infections occur when microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses) enter the urinary tract and start multiplying in the bladder. The risk factors include:
- Having sex with an infected partner
- Constipation: which does not allow the bladder to be completely empty and thus giving time to the trapped bacteria to grow
- Diabetes: since excess sugar is removed through urine making the environment favourable for bacterial overgrowth
- Holding urine for more than six hours which gives time for the bacteria to grow
- Dehydration: since the body is not getting enough water to flush out the bacteria
- Using dirty sanitary pads or tampons during menstruation
- Kidney stones: which can block the urinary tract and stop the urine from flowing out giving plenty of time to the bacteria to grow
What are the types of UTI?
The different types of UTI can include:
- Urethritis: Infection of the urethra
- Cystitis: Infection of the bladder
- Pyelonephritis: Infection of the kidneys
- Vaginitis: Infection of the vagina
What are the symptoms of UTI?
UTIs can have specific symptoms depending on which area of the urinary tract has been infected:
1. Kidneys (Acute Pyelonephritis)
- High fever, Nausea and vomiting.
- Need to urinate frequently.
- Painful urination.
- Chills accompained by trembling.
2. Bladder (Cystitis)
- Blood in urine.
- Burning sensation when urinating.
- Urinating frequently.
- Pain during sex.
3. Urethra (Urethritis)
- Burning sensation while urinating.
- Discharge from urethral opening or vagina
- Frequent need to urinate.
- Blood in semen or urine in men.
- Pain during sex.
How is UTI diagnosed?
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above repeatedly you need to visit a general practitioner. Based on the seriousness of your symptoms the general practitioner may refer you to a urologist or a nephrologist for evaluation. The tests and procedures used to diagnose urinary tract infections include:
- Urine test, i.e. analyzing the urine sample in a lab
- Urine culture, ie. growing urinary tract bacteria in a lab to find out what kind of bacteria are causing the infection
- CT scan
What are the complications of UTI?
Complications of UTI are not common but can be serious when they occur. They include:
- Prostatitis in men (inflammation or swelling of the prostate gland)
- Kidney infection (also known as pyelonephritis, when bacteria travel from the bladder to the kidneys)
- Kidney failure (for example when kidney stones block the urine flow)
- Blood poisoning (when bacteria spread from the kidneys into the bloodstream and then cause the infection to spread to any part of the body including major organs)
What is the treatment for UTI?
The treatment and length of treatment of UTIs depend on the type of microbe causing the UTI, the severity of your condition, and your overall health condition (i.e. if you have any other health conditions such as diabetes etc.).
The doctor may prescribe antibiotics and in cases of severe UTIs, the doctor may suggest hospitalization to administer intravenous antibiotics.