Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that can affect any part of the urinary tract. Passing urine is a very essential activity of any human body as it removes excess liquid and wastes from the blood. Narrow tubes called ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, a sack-like organ situated in the lower abdomen. Urine is stored in the bladder and emptied through urethra. An adult, on an average, passes about a quart and a half of urine each day, depending on the fluids and foods consumed. The urinary tract is designed to generally prevent any kind of infection. The ureters and bladder, in normal conditions, prevent urine from backing up toward the kidneys and the flow of urine from the bladder helps wash bacteria out of the body. However, urinary tract infections can still occur due to many reasons.
Urinary Tract Infection Causes
Urine is sterile which means it is free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi but it contains fluids, salts, and waste products. Urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused when bacteria, from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply. Escherichia coli (E. coli), which normally lives in the colon, is the most common type of bacteria that causes urinary tract infection. There are multiple stages of urinary tract infection. The infection limited to urethra is called urethritis. If bacteria move to the bladder and multiply, then it causes bladder infection, called cystitis. If the infection is left untreated, bacteria may multiply and infect the kidneys, which is called pyelonephritis.
Apart from bacteria, some other microorganisms called Chlamydia and Mycoplasma may also cause urinary tract infection in both men and women. However, these infections, generally remain limited to the urethra and reproductive system. Chlamydia and Mycoplasma may be sexually transmitted. In such cases where, UTI is caused by sexual transmission, both the partners have to be treated for urinary tract infection. Urinary Tract infection can also be caused by an obstruction like a urinary stone or due to a medical procedure involving a catheter. In men the cause of UTI can be enlarged prostate too. Unhygienic conditions ( like using infected public toilets) or improper cleaning of the genital areas may also cause UTI.
Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
In many cases, the person suffering from urinary tract infection, is not aware of any symptoms. It is because of the subtle nature of symptoms that go unnoticed. However, there are many symptoms of urinary tract infection that can help in early detection of the UTI, provided the patient remains alert.
- Strong and frequent urge to urinate. Sometimes, the amount of urine passed is very little in spite of strong urge to urinate.
- Pain or a burning sensation during urination
- Changed appearance of the urine. It may appear milky cloudy due to pus present in the urine or can contain traces of blood.
- Men who might have got urinary tract infection can experience pain or pressure in the rectum. Women can feel pain or pressure within the area of pubic bone.
- Weakness and tiredness. The infected person feels bad all the time resembling a shaky and washed out feeling.
- Some of the people affected with urinary tract infection may also experience pain in the back or below the ribs, nausea, or vomiting.
- Fever, only when the urinary tract infection has infected the kidneys and blood too. In mild UTI, fever is not its symptom.
- Bleeding, again when the kidney has also been infected.
- Urinary tract infection in babies, especially infants, may go unnoticed due to their regular habits of urinating more than adults. If an infant gets a urinary tract infection, the more common symptoms include irritability, fever, loose stools or any kind of feeding problems.
Urinary Tract Infection Diagnosis and Treatment
To confirm whether the symptoms felt by a patient is actually a case of urinary tract infection or not, doctors test a sample of urine for pus and bacteria. Urine is examined for he presence of white and red blood cells and bacteria. The bacteria found in the urine are grown in a culture and tested against different antibiotics to establish which drug best destroys the bacteria. If the patient experiences recurrent urinary tract infections, further tests are conducted that include imaging studies and/or visual examination of the bladder (cystoscopy).
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibacterial drugs (antibiotics). The specific drug and length of treatment depend on the results of urine culture tests and patient's history. If the UTI is a mild one, it can be cured with 1 or 2 days of treatment. However, doctors recommend their patients to take antibiotics for a week or two in order to ensure that the infection has been cured completely. Longer treatment is essentially needed for patients having signs of a kidney infection, diabetes, structural abnormalities, or men who have prostate infections. Longer treatment is also needed in UTI caused by Mycoplasma or Chlamydia. Usually, doctors recommend lengthier therapy in men than in women, in part to prevent infections of the prostate gland. After the treatment is over, a followup urinalysis is conducted to ensure that the urinary tract is completely free of infection.
Urinary Tract Infection Remedies and Prevention
The golden saying goes- prevention is better than cure. Urinary tract infections can be prevented by taking care of not getting infected by bacteria. Treatment should also be followed religiously because once having urinary tract infection makes the patient prone to frequent urinary tract infections. The full course of antibiotics recommended by the doctors should be taken. Following measures should also be taken during the treatment of urinary tract infection and for further prevention of UTI.
- Drink plenty of water which helps cleanse the urinary tract of bacteria.
- Avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods during urinary tract infection treatment. Quit smoking too.
- Don't resist the urge to urinate. Urinate whenever the need is felt.
- Women must wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra.
- Avoid public toilets. If it can't be done, avoid contact with the toilet seats. Indian toilets are most safe (for women) from the point of view of preventing urinary tract infections. If you can't find one, ensure to flush before using western public toilets.
- Tub baths promote spreading of bacteria. Take showers instead.
- Cleanse the genital area before having sexual intercourse.
- In case of female urinary tract infection, women must avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches. They may cause irritation to the urethra.
- Take lots of Vitamin C. It grants acidic nature to urine and helps in reducing the number of potentially harmful bacteria in the urinary tract system.
- Wear cotton panties. They allow moisture to escape. Moist environment is the breeding ground for bacteria that might cause frequent urinary tract infections.