The urinary system involves the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. Kidneys are for excreting excess fluid from the system, electrolytes, and waste from your blood while keeping the essentials only. Both kidneys holds a small tube called the ureter that is connected to the bladder. Then urine goes into the bladder and through the ureters, it goes out from the body through the urethra when the bladder is full. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection to any part of the urinary system. More commonly, this affects the bladder or the urethra, and if it does not get proper treatment, this can give complications to the ureters and the kidneys.
The types of Urinary Tract Infections may include:
- Bladder Infections (Cystitis)
- Kidney Infections (Pyelonephritis)
- Urethra Infections (Urethritis)
Most of the time, urine is sterile which contains no bacteria, viruses, or fungi. A UTI can develop when a microorganism goes into the urinary system and through the urethra. The most common infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E.coli) that is a digestive tract bacterium which resides in the colon. This can extend to the urethra from the anus. There are other microorganisms that can lead to UTIs in men and women such as chlamydia and Mycoplasma that is essentially not allowed into the urethra and the reproductive system. Because these microorganisms are sexually transmitted, both partners require treatment if infections arise.
Some cases produce higher risks in developing UTIs. These include structural abnormalities of the urinary system, urinary stones, and bladder blockage. Those individuals with diabetes are more prone to UTIs due to a build-up of sugar in the urine. Men with enlarged prostate too have high risk of having UTIs because they are unable to empty their bladder fully.
UTIs can also be seen in babies born with abnormalities in their urinary system. Women are more susceptible compared to men as the ratio is an estimate of 1 woman in 5 will have UTIs during their lifetime. This is due to the fact that they have a shorter urethra, thus bacteria will have a longer distance to transport themselves before they get to the bladder. Women have higher risk involved especially when they are sexually active, this occurs in their post menopause stage when they have a dryer state of the urethra and vagina.
UTI symptoms can change based on the type on infection, and it varies from children to adults. In some cases, certain individuals can show no symptoms. Although those that do, these symptoms might include:
- Back pain
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine
- Fever and chills
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Malaise (feeling generally unwell)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the abdomen or above the pubic bone
- Pain in the ribs
- Painful and burning sensation during urination
Sufficient antibiotics is generally enough to treat mild UTIs depending on the cause and history of the infection. There are preventive measures that are advisable to be taken especially for women who have recurrent infections. This can eventually reduce the risk of UTIs in the future. These suggestive methods may include:
- Drinking cranberry juice or taking vitamin C to aid in acidifying the urine and therefore inhibit bacterial growth
- Drinking plenty of water
- Not holding the bladder for long, and urinating when you feel the need to
- Urinating immediately after sexual intercourse
- Women with recurrent UTIs might need to take antibiotics daily for three to six months, or post sexual intercourse
- Kidney damage can happen if cystitis goes untreated as the infection can spread to the kidneys.
- Serious blood infection such as Septicaemia can develop if the bacteria causing the UTI to enter the blood supply.
- UTI during pregnancy can cause premature birth and high blood pressure.