A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by a pathogenic organisms, which affect the urinary tract. This infection causes pain and burning with urination (dysuria), strong urge to urinate and pain in the lower abdomen. UTI can be easily treated with antibiotics.
The Urinary Tract
The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The kidneys filter waste products from the blood and produce urine. The ureters are two thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, the organ that stores urine. The urethra is the tube through which urine exits the bladder.
Urinary Tract Infection Overview
A urinary tract infection is very common and mostly affects women. Approximately, half of all women will experience at least one urinary tract infection in their lifetime. The reason why women are more susceptible to UTI than men is because of their anatomy. The female urethra is shorter therefore bacteria have a shorter distance to travel and it is also located near the rectum thus bacteria easily reach the urinary tract.
In general, urinary tract infections are mild and quickly respond to treatment with antibiotics. However, a urinary tract infection can cause serious complications such as kidney failure and blood poisoning (sepsis). Complications of urinary tract infections are usually seen in individuals with some other medical condition such as diabetes or compromised immune system.
Types of Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection is most commonly caused by bacteria Escherichia coli that are usually found in the gastrointestinal tract. The infection occurs when the bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra. Sometimes, the infection develops when the bacteria reaches the urinary tract though the bloodstream.
A urinary tract infection can be classified into two types:
- Lower urinary tract infection - it affects the lower urinary tract and includes cystitis, the infection of the bladder and urethritis, the infection of the urethra.
- Upper urinary tract infection – this is more serious type of UTI and involves upper urinary tract. Upper UTI includes infection of the ureters and kidneys and may lead to kidney damage if left untreated.
Tips on Preventing Urinary Tract Infection
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of developing urinary tract infections. Drink cranberry juice or use cranberry capsules to prevent recurring urinary tract infections. However, avoid this if you are taking warfarin (blood thinning medicine).
Constipation can increase the risk of UTI thus it needs to be dealt with promptly. You can relieve constipation with increased intake of dietary fiber, use of laxatives and drinking lot of fluids.
To prevent UTIs, do not hold your urine and empty your bladder after having sex to wash away bacteria. After going to toilet wipe from front to back and maintain good personal hygiene.