If you have ever been unfortunate enough to have a urinary tract
A UTI is an infection that occurs in any part of the urinary system, including bladders, kidneys, ureters, and the urethra. Most involve only the urethra and/or the bladder.
The urinary tract is like the plumbing system of the body. Some structures, like the bladder, are essential and allow the flow of urine. Others, like the kidneys and the ureters, are less essential but play a crucial role in the way the body functions. Without those structures, you wouldn’t be able to eliminate a certain amount of water. When there is a blockage in one of these crucial structures, the flow of urine is stopped which may cause serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Since women have a much greater risk of developing a urinary tract infection, they generally notice the symptoms right away.
Even a UTI that infects only the bladder can be a painful experience, however, once the infection reaches the kidneys, serious consequences can occur.
Common Symptoms of a UTI
Although not everyone notices the symptoms of a low grade urinary tract infection, but often times, common symptoms include:
- Pain in the pelvis, usually around the pubic bone or the center of the pelvis. This symptom is especially common for women.
- A strong feeling of needing to urinate, but only a few drops leave the body.
- Urine that appears pink, bloody, or even cola-colored
- Urine that has a very strong odor
- Passing small amounts of cloudy urine
- A burning feeling when urinating
- Chills when urinating
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection can occur anywhere in your urinary tract. If you have a bladder infection, your doctor may order tests to check for other urinary tract infections. This test, known as a urinalysis, may be performed on a sample of urine, which is collected in a specimen cup.
Additional tests may include screening. Screening for certain urinary tract infections is needed to help your doctor determine the cause of the infection and decide if it is serious.
Common Causes of Urinary Tract Infections
When bacteria enter the urinary tract via the urethra a Urinary Tract Infection can occur. Once inside the body, the bacteria begin to multiply quickly. Although the body has a few defenses to stop this from happening, they occasionally fail.
This results in inflammation in the urinary tract and inflammation in other parts of the body. These diseases are often seen in countries that lack basic sanitation but may appear in all other countries, too.
Urinary Tract Infections can be very painful.
There are different kinds of bacteria that colonize the urinary tract. Some of the most common ones are Escherichia coli, E. coli O157:H7, Lactobacillus reuteri, Proteus mirabilis, Campylobacter jejuni, and Yersinia enterocolitica.
Women have a much shorter urethra than men, which means the bacteria has a much shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
Sexually active women may be in a higher risk zone. When a woman gets a new sexual partner, it sets them up for a greater risk of UTIs.
Certain types of birth control, such as diaphragms, are also at a greater risk.
Other causes include:
- Menopause – changes in the body can lead to a higher risk of UTIs.
- Recent surgery involving the urinary tract or a detailed exam that involves any type of device
- A suppressed immune system
- Diseases such as diabetes increase the risk of developing a UTI
- A blockage of the urinary tract, such as kidney stones.
- Persons who use a catheter also have a higher risk of UTIs.
While most urinary tract infections are easily treated with antibiotics that kill the bacteria, some people don’t recognize the symptoms or they are misdiagnosed. Left untreated, this can lead to serious complications including:
- Sepsis – This is a life-threatening complication of infections, especially if it is left long enough for the infection to reach the kidneys.
- Recurrent Infections- These lead to antibiotic resistance bacteria in the body.
- Urethral Narrowing: Men who have recurring urethritis can have a narrowing of the urethra due to scar tissue.
- Kidney Damage- Chronic or acute kidney infections can lead to permanent kidney damage.
- Problems with Pregnancy – women with chronic or untreated urinary tract infections can have premature or low birth weight infants.
It is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing any symptom or abnormality in your urinary system.
Generally, these infections can be controlled using medications, but doctors may opt for a medically-induced cure. This means the doctor will surgically remove some of the infected tissue. Some common causes of medically-induced bladder infections are diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, tumors, and certain digestive disorders.
If these conditions are present, or your doctor suspects them, then they’ll need to be treated.