Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are the second-most common type of infection in the body, accounting for about 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers each year. Because of their anatomy, women are more prone to UTIs than men.
UTIs are caused by microbes – organisms too small to be seen without a microscope – including fungi, viruses and bacteria. Bacteria are the most common cause of UTIs.
The Urinary Tract
The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing extra water and wastes. It includes two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder and a urethra. A UTI can occur in any part of this system. When the UTI occurs in the urethra, it is called urethritis. An infection of the bladder is called cystitis. An infection in a ureter is called ureteritis. An infection of the kidney is called pyelonephritis.
Risk factors for developing UTIs include:
- Being female. A woman’s urethra is just 1.5 inches long, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder.
- Sexual activity. For many women, this seems to trigger an infection. Urinating after sexual activity can help decrease the likelihood of developing a UTI. Nearly 80 percent of all UTIs occur after sexual activity.
- Irregular urination. Infrequent visits to the bathroom can increase the risk of developing a UTI. Urine that stays in the bladder longer is more likely to grow bacteria.
- Birth control methods. Using a diaphragm or spermicides seems to increase risk.
- Insufficient water intake.
- Inadequate personal hygiene.
- History of UTI.
Signs and Symptoms
- The urge to urinate frequently, which may recur immediately after the bladder is emptied.
- A painful or burning sensation upon urination.
- Muscle aches
- Feeling tired, shaky or weak
- Only small amounts of urine passed, despite a strong urge to urinate
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Discomfort or pressure in the lower abdomen.
- Cramping in the pelvic area or back.
- Cloudy or murky urine, which may have a strong smell. This is a very reliable indicator of a UTI and may be caused by bacteria, mucus, blood cells or tissue cells.
Symptoms of a kidney infection tend to be more severe and affect the whole body and include:
- Increased need to urinate at night
- Chills and persistent fever, typically lasting more than two days
- Pain in the flank – running along the back at waist level
- Vomiting and nausea
Infections in Men
Urinary tract infections in men are often the result of an obstruction—for example, a urinary stone or enlarged prostate—or are from a catheter used during a medical procedure. The first step in treating such an infection is to identify the infecting organism and the medications to which it is sensitive.
Prostate infections – chronic bacterial prostatitis – are harder to cure because antibiotics may be unable to penetrate infected prostate tissue effectively. For this reason, men with bacterial prostatitis often need long-term treatment with a carefully selected antibiotic. UTIs in men are frequently associated with acute bacterial prostatitis, which can be life threatening if not treated urgently.
Most UTIs are caused by bacteria, which are treated with antibiotics or antimicrobials. The medication is carefully selected to match the infection.