Urinary Tract Infection

The urinary tract consists of ureters, bladder, urethra, and the kidneys. A urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur in any part of your urinary tract system. Most of these infections are bacterial infections, but they can also be viral or fungal infections in rare cases. As the second most common type of infection affecting humans, the urinary tract infections occupy more than eight million doctor visits in America. (Figure comes from the National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, namely NKUDIC.) In order to find an appropriate treatment option, it is important that you first learn more about the causes and type of infection.

What Is Urinary Tract Infection?

As mentioned, your urinary tract consists of the kidneys, urethra, ureters, and bladder. Sometimes, bacteria or germs enter your urinary tract and replicate themselves. This leads to a bacterial urinary tract infection. In most cases, these germs enter your urinary tract through the urethra, which is the tube used to flush urine out of your system. Once you become infected, you will notice swelling, redness, and pain in your urinary tract. It is important to treat it early or it may spread to the kidneys and turn into a more serious condition.

In order to select a right treatment option, it is important to find out the exact type of your UTI.

  • Kidney related—Pyelonephritis. UTI that affects your kidneys and is called acute pyelonephritis, which shows symptoms such as high fever, nausea, shaking, and vomiting.
  • Bladder related—Cystitis. Similarly, it can be cystitis, a condition in which you have infection in your bladder.
  • Urethra related—Urethritis. Germs can also infect your urethra causing urethritis, which shows symptoms such as burning sensation with urination.

What Are the Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection?

Symptoms of a UTI can be quite bothersome. The most common symptom is a burning sensation you will feel while urinating. Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling the urge to urinate without being able to do it
  • Leaking urine
  • Noticing dark, cloudy, smelly urine with blood

You don't always notice symptoms when you have a UTI, and the condition is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. You don't usually need to treat it if you're not experiencing any symptoms.

Children can also develop a UTI with symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, irritability, vomiting, back pain, fatigue, and fussiness. You may also notice your child having no control over bladder.

If you are pregnant and develop a urinary tract infection, you should get your condition treated immediately. UTIs in pregnancy can lead to serious complications and even cause premature delivery and hypertension.

What Causes Urinary Tract Infection?

Even though the urinary system can keep microscopic invaders at bay, this defense sometimes fails, allowing bacteria to enter the urinary tract. This will lead to a bacterial infection, which usually affects the bladder and urethra – it occurs mainly in women.

  • Cystitis: You deal with this infection of the bladder when bacteria (Escherichia coli or E. coli) found in your gastrointestinal tract enters your bladder. Sexual intercourse increases the risk of developing this infection, but you can have it even if you're not sexually active. Women are more at risk due to their anatomy and short distance from the anus to the urethra.
  • Urethritis: The infection develops when your gastrointestinal bacteria enter your urethra. Other sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, herpes, mycoplasma, and Chlamydia can also cause urethritis.

Women Get UTI More Often, Why?

Women are at a greater risk for UTIs mainly because bacteria can reach the bladder with ease. The opening of the urinary tract, called the urethra, is shorter in women, so bacteria don't have to travel a lot to cause an infection. The distance between the urethra and the rectum is quite less, which also allows for bacteria to enter the urinary tract and cause infections. Spermicides, antibacterial vaginal douches, and some oral antibiotics may change vaginal bacteria, which will eventually lead to UTIs.

How to Treat Urinary Tract Infection

Medical Treatment

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat your infection. You need to keep taking your antibiotics even when you feel better because the infection may return if you don't complete a course of antibiotics. Your symptoms will go away within a couple of days of taking antibiotics.

You may have to take antibiotics whenever you have sex if you have a history of dealing with UTIs often. You may also need stronger doses and longer courses of antibiotics to deal with recurrent infections. It is important to admit in hospital when an infection spreads to your kidneys. The treatment in this case involves taking antibiotics and injective fluids through your vein.

Don't overlook UTIs in children because it can hamper the growth of the kidneys. In some cases, urine starts traveling back up into the kidneys, so it is important to consult your doctor when you notice symptoms of a UTI in your child.

Home Care

You can also take some home care measures to treat your urinary tract infection. Here's what you can do:

  • Be sure to drink plenty of water. This will dilute your urine and help throw bacteria out of your system.
  • Don't opt for drinks that may irritate your bladder. The list includes alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks that contain citrus juices.
  • Apply a warm pad to your abdomen to relieve pain and swelling.

How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infection

Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent infections.

  • Be sure to wipe from front to back after having a bowel movement or urinating.
  • Drink water daily and especially after having sex.
  • Don't hold urine for long.
  • Avoid going for baths and instead take showers.
  • Buy a few underpants with a cotton crotch.

In addition, you should also consider using cranberry products because they help keep UTIs at bay. Many women have noticed positive effects of using cranberry products. Be sure to drink cranberry juice daily to ensure that harmful bacteria don't attach to urinary tract cells.

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