Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of any parts of the urinary system, whether your kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. The infection of the lower urinary tract is known as bladder infection or cystitis, and the infection in the upper urinary tract is called kidney infection or pyelonephritis.

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Ureters- the narrow tubes carry urine from kidneys to the bladder. Urine is stored in the bladder and emptied through the urethra. An average human adult passes about a quart and a half of urine each day (on the basis of consumption of fluids and foods.)

Urinary tract naturally prevents any kind of infection as the ureters and bladder, in normal conditions, prevent urine from backing up toward the kidneys. The flow of urine from the bladder helps wash bacteria out of the body. However, urinary tract infection can still occur due to many reasons.

Most urinary tract infections are caused by Escherichia coli, though other bacteria, fungi, or viruses may sometimes be the cause. Female anatomy, sexual intercourse, obesity, diabetes, and family history are common risk factors of UTI. Sexual intercourse is an important risk factor of UTI but it is not classified as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

UTIs are one of the most frequent infections in humans. More than one million people suffer from urinary tract infections every year. Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than are men. Up to five percent of women have at least one infection at some point in their lifetime.

An uncomplicated UTI

It occurs in a healthy person with a clear urinary tract and can usually be cured with 2 to 3 days of treatment.

A complicated UTI

It occurs in a person who is weakened by other conditions, such as pregnancy, or heart transplant. It requires long periods to cure, usually a couple of weeks.



Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

As soon as you feel one or see signs of UTI, you must start your home treatment for UTI. This is the list of symptoms of urinary tract infection.

  • Frequent urge to urinate.
  • Pain or a burning sensation during urination.
  • Passing of milky cloudy urine due to pus present in the urine. Sometimes, urine might contain traces of blood.
  • Men having urinary tract infection can feel pain or pressure in the rectum.
  • Women having urinary tract infection can feel pain or pressure within the area of the pubic bone.
  • Weakness and tiredness.
  • Urine with a strong odor
  • Sometimes pain in the back or below the ribs is there. Nausea and even vomiting can occur.
  • Fever, only when the urinary tract infection has gone up to the kidneys and blood too.
  • Bleeding, only when the kidneys are also infected.

Causes of UTI

Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium found in the digestive system causes a majority of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Similarly, mycoplasma bacteria and chlamydia can infect the urethra but not the bladder.

Depending on the site of infection, UTIs are of following types:

Cystitis: a urinary bladder infection

Urethritis (very rare): a urethra infection

Pyelonephritis: a kidney infection

Risk factors

Although some people are more at risk than others, people of any age and sex can develop a urinary tract infection at any age. The common risk factors of UTIs are given below.

  • Age- older adults are more likely to get UTIs
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • More frequent and intense sexual intercourse, especially with multiple partners
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Urinary catheter
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Blocked urine flow
  • Kidney stones
  • Menopause
  • Some form of contraception: diaphragm, condom with spermicide, and tampons
  • A previous UTI
  • Maldevelopment of urinary structures from birth
  • Compromised immune system
  • Disruption of the natural flora of the bowel and urinary tract by the heavy use of antibiotics

Complications

Most of the time urinary tract infections are not serious. Some cases, however, can lead to serious problems, particularly with upper UTIs. Some sudden kidney infections can be life-threatening, particularly in septicemia, in which the bacteria enter the bloodstream. Likewise, recurrent or chronic infection of the kidney can lead to kidney failure. UTI in pregnancy is hazardous to both mother and infant. It increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Prevention

The following preventive measures reduce the risk of developing a UTI and can save your hospital visit time and money:

  • Drink plenty of water and urinate frequently.
  • Urinate in a short time after sex.
  • Alcohol and caffeine irritate the urinary bladder. So, avoid such fluids.
  • Keep the genital area clean. Wipe from front to back after urinating.
  • Showers are preferred to baths.
  • Use sanitary pads or menstrual cups rather than tampons.
  • Avoid using oils, and perfumed products in the genital area.
  • Avoid using spermicide and diaphragm for birth control.
  • Keep the area around the urethra dry by using loose-fitting cotton underwear.

Diagnosis

Contact your doctor if you suspect that you have a UTI based on the symptoms. After reviewing the symptoms, your doctor will perform a physical examination. To confirm the diagnosis, a urine test is done.

The method of urine collection is called “clean catch”. This means the urine sample is collected in the middle of your urination, rather than at the beginning. It is necessary to wash the genital area before providing a urine sample. This aids to avoid collecting microbes from around the genital area, which can contaminate the sample.

In the case of recurrent urinary tract infections, you may require to undergo further diagnostic testing such as diagnostic imaging, urodynamics, or cystoscopy.



Treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs)

The treatment depends on the cause. Most of the time UTI is caused by bacteria and the treatment is done with antibiotics. Antivirals and antifungals are necessary for the treatment of the infection are due to viruses or fungi. Oral antibiotics are administered in case of lower urinary tract infections, and antibiotics are put directly into your veins (intravenous) to treat upper urinary tract infections.


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Home Remedies for a Urinary Tract Infection

No home remedies treat urinary tract infections completely, but they help your body clear the infection faster. There are many natural remedies for a bladder infection but the foremost UTI cure is the prevention of factors that might cause urinary tract infection.

Drink lots of water to help flush out bacteria and other toxins from the body, avoid unhygienic conditions like public toilets, keep your genitals clean, avoid having multiple sexual partners and exercise all cautions during sexual activities.

Apart from taking these preventive measures for UTI, adopt the following home treatment for UTI in the form of easy and simple remedies if you catch the infection.

  • Drink lots of water and other liquids to help flush out the waste substances from the body.
  • Add 1/2 tsp baking soda in a glass of water as soon as you see the first symptoms of urinary tract infection.
  • Have cranberry juice that inhibits the growth of bacteria and prevents them from clinging to the cells of the urinary tract. You can even add apple juice to it.
  • Take equal parts of sandalwood, bergamot, tea tree, frankincense, and juniper. Mix them to make herbal oil and rub this over your bladder area. Do massage with this oil for 2-3 days till the symptoms of UTI begin subsiding.
  • Increase intake of vitamin C. Amla (Emblica officinalis or Gooseberry), lime juice, citrus fruits, etc. are rich sources of Vitamin C.
  • Avoid tea, coffee, and other drinks with caffeine. Also avoid spicy food as well as processed food like cheese, chocolate, and dairy products. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, carbonated drinks like beer, soda, or any other drink with fizz. All these foods and drinks promote the growth of bacteria.
  • Include antibacterial herbs in your daily food. Many Indian herbs, spices, and condiments like garlic, clove, basil, turmeric, etc. have effective antibacterial properties. Use them while cooking your food.


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