Urinary Tract Infection

1 What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of the urinary system which includes kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

Most infections affect lower urinary tract. Women are at a higher risk of developing UTI than men. Infections in bladder can be painful and annoying. Serious consequences can occur if UT infections spread to kidney.

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Treatment usually includes usage of antibiotics. Types of UT infection include acute pyelonephritis (kidneys), cystitis (urinary bladder), urethritis (urethra).

2 Symptoms

Urinary tract (UT) infections do not cause any significant signs and symptoms always.

Some of the symptoms which appear include: strong urge to urinate, burning sensation while urinating, frequent small amount of urine and cloudy urine, red bright pink or cola colored urine (indicated presence of blood), strong smell in urine and, pelvic pain in women, specially in the pubic area.

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3 Causes

Urinary tract infections are caused when bacteria enter the urinary tract through urethra and start multiplying. The bacterial invasion occurs when defensive mechanisms fail and bacteria takes hold and develops in to a full born infection.

  • Infection of the bladder - usually caused by E. coli and sometimes other bacteria may be responsible. Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis. Women are more predisposed to cystitis because the short distance from anus to the urethra.
  • Infection of the urethra - it happens when the infection spreads from the anus to urethra and also because female urethra is close to vagina. Therefore, women are more predisposed.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of urinary tract infection (UTI) includes physical examination and assessment of signs and symptoms.

Some of the following tests may be recommended for accuracy: analyzing urine sample, urine culture, determination of bacteria and creating images of urinary tract (X-ray, CT scan and MRI).

5 Treatment

Antibiotics are the first line treatment option for urinary tract infection (UTI). Depending on the severity of the condition, different classes of antibiotics are selected.

Drugs commonly prescribed for UT infections are Trimethoprim, Fosfomycin, Nitrofurantoin, Ciprofloxacin, Ceftriaxone, Azithromycin and Doxycycline.

Treatment must be continued for few weeks. Doctor may also prescribe analgesics to decrease sensation of pain and burning. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to decrease inflammation

6 Prevention

Urinary tract infections can be prevented by maintaining proper personal hygiene, safe sex, avoiding multiple sex partners and avoiding usage of diaphragms.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for urinary tract infection (UTI).

Home remedies include usage of heat pads to decrease pain, bladder pressure and discomfort.

Alternatives include Cranberry juice which has anti-inflammatory properties. Some research is being done on this. Cranberry juice must be avoided while taking warfarin.

Home Remedies For a UTI

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Urinary tract infection (UTI) can be painful but some of the following measures can be taken for better lifestyle:

  • Drinking plenty of water - this dilutes urine and eliminates bacteria.
  • Some of the following drinks must be avoided- coffee, alcohol and soft drinks.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with urinary tract infection (UTI).

Risk factors include:

  • Female anatomy - women have shorter urethra than men which decrease the distance to spread.
  • Sexual activity - women who are sexually active tend to have more urinary tract infections than women who are not active.
  • Certain types of birth control - diaphragm which are used in birth control can lead to accumulation of bacteria.
  • Menopause - after menopause decreased estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract which may be associated to development of infection.

Some of the other factors for UTI include babies born with UT abnormalities, blockage in the UT, suppressed immune system, catheter use and recent urinary system surgery.

Complications of UT infection include recurrent infections in women, permanent kidney damage, increased risk of teratogenesis (disease passing on to fetus via placenta), urethral narrowing in men is seen from recurrent urethritis and sepsis (a potentially life-threatening situation).

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