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Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) –Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and its Treatment

 

Introduction

A urinary tract in a human body is the system that creates urine and also takes it out of the body. The system includes kidneys, connecting tubes, and the bladder. When germs enter this system then it can get infected, giving us the term- urinary tract infection.

One of the most common forms of urinary tract infection is the bladder infection. While a bladder infection is not really a serious threat to the human body, if left untreated for a long time it may spread to the kidneys, making them vulnerable to a permanent and serious damage.

Generally, the germs enter the urinary tract through urethra, which is a tube that carries urine outside of the body from the bladder. Once entered these germs can stay put inside the large intestine and can be thus found in the stool.

Women are more prone to urinary tract infection in comparison to men because their urethra is shorter than the latter. This makes it easier for the germs to go past the bladder and enter the system. Sexual intercourse can also make germs enter a woman’s urethra easily.

Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of urinary tract infection include-

  • Pelvic pain, in woman
  • Strong odor of urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Rectal pain, in men
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • Reddish or pinkish urine, sign of blood in the urine

The symptoms of specific forms of UTI include-

Urethritis (Infection of Urethra)- Burning sensation while urinating.

Cystitis (Infection of Bladder)– Blood in urine, painful and frequent urination, lower abdominal pain and discomfort, pelvic pressure.

Acute Pyelonephritis (Infection of Kidneys)- High fever, nausea, upper back and side pain, chills and shaking body.

Causes

A person gets UTI when bacteria manage to enter the urinary tract through the opening meant for urine passage.

Risk Factors

Primary risk factors for UTIs include-

  • Being Female- Urinary tract infections are more prevalent in women in comparison to men. This is because they have a shorter urethra, which cuts down on the distance that the bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.
  • Kidney Stones- Kidney stones may trap a portion of urine in the bladder, making it easier for bacteria to grow.
  • Urinary Tract Abnormalities- People with inborn Urinary tract abnormalities that cause hindrance to the urine passage have a higher risk of getting UTIs.
  • Sexual Activities- Women who are sexually active are more prone to getting a UTI.

Complications

Complications of UTI include kidney damage, recurrent infections, and in women increased risk of delivering premature infants.

Diagnosis

The most basic test performed for the diagnosis of UTI is the analysis of a urine sample. A doctor may check the sample for red blood cells, white blood cells, or bacteria.

After the urine test the doctor may proceed to urine culture examination, in which the sample is used to grow bacteria in the lab. This test allows the doctor to find the type of bacteria which is causing the infection, and hence choose medication accordingly.

In case a person has recurrent UTIs then the doctor may use a cystoscope to look inside the urethra and bladder.

Treatment

In most cases of urinary tract infections antibiotics alone can lead to a successful treatment. The goals of a UTI treatment include elimination of the infections, prevention of recurrence, and avoidance of serious medical complications such as damage to kidneys and sepsis. In women the goals of the treatment include the protection of the women and fetus.

The basic initial treatment is a combination of antibiotics and a home based treatment. The home treatment emphasizes on frequent urination and drinking a lot of water on a regular basis. If this treatment helps in improving the symptoms then further testing is not required. However, one may need additional tests if the person is-

  • Pregnant
  • Older than 65
  • Diabetic or has a weak immune system

If antibiotics are unable to treat UTI then the patient may need further evaluation and an additional treatment.

If the infection has spread considerably and has begun to interfere with the functioning of kidneys then one needs to get professional medical/ hospital care. Fortunately, this kind of situation arises rarely, especially with people who are otherwise healthy and have a good immune system.

Prevention

Drinking plenty of water, and emptying the bladder as much as possible during urination can help prevent UTI in both men and women. Other gender-specific prevention tips are as follows:

Women

  • Changing sanitary napkins often.
  • Urinating immediately after having a sexual intercourse.
  • Avoiding condoms which are coated with a diaphragm or a spermicide for birth control, in case they are causing UTI.
  • Wiping from front to back after using the toilet to prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract from anus.
  • Intake of cranberry juice has been reported to help prevent UTIs. However, there is no scientific evidence backing it.

Men

  • Keeping the penis clean, especially if there is no circumcision.