A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection involving the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. These are the structures that urine passes through before being eliminated from the body
Any part of this system can become infected. As a rule, the farther up in the urinary tract the infection is located, the more serious it is.
- The upper urinary tract is composed of the kidneys and ureters. Infection in the upper urinary tract generally affects the kidneys (pyelonephritis), which can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and other severe symptoms.
- The lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and the urethra. Infection in the lower urinary tract can affect the urethra (urethritis) or the bladder (cystitis).
Urinary tract infections are much more common in adults than in children, but about 1%-2% of children do get urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections in children are more likely to be serious than those in adults and should not be ignored (especially in younger children).
What causes a urinary tract infection ?
The urine is normally sterile. An infection occurs when bacteria get into the urine and begin to grow. The infection usually starts at the opening of the urethra where the urine leaves the body and moves upward into the urinary tract.
- The culprit in at least 90% of uncomplicated infections is a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli, better know as E. coli. These bacteria normally live in the bowel (colon) and around the anus.
- These bacteria can move from the area around the anus to the opening of the urethra. The two most common causes of this are poor hygiene and sexual intercourse.
- Usually, the act of emptying the bladder (urinating) flushes the bacteria out of the urethra. If there are too many bacteria, urinating may not stop their spread.
What are urinary tract infection symptoms and signs ?
- Dysuria : pain or burning during urination
- Frequency : more frequent urination (or waking up at night to urinate, sometimes referred to as nocturia); often with only a small amount of urine.
- Urinary urgency : the sensation of having to urinate urgently.
- Cloudy, bad-smelling, or bloody urine.
- Lower abdominal pain or pelvic pressure.
- Mild fever (less than 101 F), chills, and "just not feeling well" (malaise)
- Urethra (urethritis): Burning with urination
Is it possible to prevent a urinary tract infection ?
- Women and girls should wipe from front to back (not back to front) after bowel movements. This helps prevent bacteria from the anus entering the urethra.
- Empty the bladder regularly and completely, especially after sexual intercourse.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Cranberry juice, especially, has been shown to help prevent urinary tract infections. There is evidence that cranberries reduce the risk of the bacteria's adhesion to bladder cells.
Is the term for a UTI that often occurs after sexual activity. A few women get a UTI frequently after sexual activity (honeymoon or not). Sexual activity can push infecting bacteria into the urethra resulting in an infection. Women with a diaphragm placed for birth control are at a higher risk for UTIs