Information on Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are extremely uncomfortable and typically characterized by itching, burning, pain, nausea, and frequent urination. Urinary tract infections are quite common, accounting for more than 7 million visits to medical offices and hospitals each year in the United States alone. 1

If not treated promptly, UTIs can cause permanent scarring of the urinary tract. The principal cause for UTIs is a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli or E.coli. UTIs are classified into three types according to the part of the urinary tract that is affected: (1) Kidneys; (2) Bladder or the Urethra. The symptoms depend on which part of the urinary tract is infected. Once you have developed a UTI, it actually increases your likelihood of acquiring future infections. Many women experience more than one infection during their lifetimes.

What are Urinary Tract Infections?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. It is extremely uncomfortable and recurrences are common.

Men and women of all ages are at risk for UTIs. Risk factors include female anatomy, sexual intercourse and family history. However, women are at a greater risk of developing a UTI than men are. While these infections most often originate in the urethra and migrate to the bladder, they are not limited to those areas, and can easily be spread to other parts of the urinary tract. More severe infections can spread to the kidneys and can be life-threatening. Careful attention to proper hygiene, and awareness of UTI symptoms are the best ways to prevent infections and catch them before they reach advanced stages.

Urinary tract infections are much more common in adults than in children, and more common in girls and women than in boys and men younger than 50 years of age. About 40% of women and 12% of men have had a urinary tract infection at some point in their lifetime. 2

The Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do, symptoms vary from person to person based on the specific cause, severity of the infection and on which part of the urinary tract is infected. The most commonly experienced symptoms are strong, persistent intense urge to urinate, frequent urination, urine that appears cloudy, red, bright pink or dark-colored and has a foul or strong strange smell, coupled with nausea, pain, uncomfortable itching and burning sensations in general or during urination. In some severe cases feeling tired or shaky may be experienced, along with fever and chills.

The symptoms of a UTI can sometimes mimic those of sexually transmitted diseases or other conditions, consult a doctor if a UTI is suspected. A simple urine test is needed to confirm an infection.

Recurrences of UTIs are commons. About 1 in 5 women experience a second urinary tract infection, while some are plagued incessantly. 3 The kind of urinary tract infection you suffer from will depend on the type of bacteria found in your urine and subsequently then determine the effectiveness of various available treatments.

What are the Causes and Characteristics of UTIs?

An infection occurs when bacteria penetrates the urine, which is generally a sterile environment. In the urine, the bacteria begins to grow and expand. The infection usually begins at the opening of the urethra, where the urine leaves the body and travels upwardly into the urinary tract. The majority of UTIs are caused by a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli or E.coli. Although rare, other bacteria, viruses or fungi may also be the cause. When UTIs become chronic, they are due, in most cases, to different types or strains of bacteria or when some of these become resistant to conventional prescription treatments.

There are three different kinds of UTIs according to the part of the urinary tract that is affected: (1) Kidneys or acute pyelonephritis; (2) Bladder or cystitis; and (3) Urethra or urethritis. E. coli is the main cause for UTIs. The most common involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra. Cystitis can also be caused by sexual intercourse and Urethritis by sexually transmitted diseases. Pyelonephritis is the most dangerous and can cause short-term and long-term kidney damage. If not treated promptly, it can spread to the bloodstream and cause very severe infections elsewhere in the body.

Women are at a greater risk but everyone is susceptible to UTIs.

Here is a list of those individuals who are at risk:

  • 1. People with medical conditions such as obstructions (kidney stones), spinal cord injuries, or bladder decompensation
  • 2. Women who are sexually active
  • 3. Men with enlarged prostates
  • 4. Very young infants and young children who have poor hygiene skills
  • 5. Hospitalized patients or nursing-home residents who are catheterized for long periods


How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections?

There is no single, foolproof way to prevent UTIs. If it is a serious recurring issue, your doctor may be able to identify a pattern of infection along with the associated cause.

The most effective way to prevent UTIs is to empty your bladder completely as soon as you have the sensation of urination, maintain proper hygiene (wipe from front to back), drink plenty of water, cleanse the genital area well before intercourse and to urinate after intercourse. Additionally, it is recommended to keep the genital area dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes and avoid wearing tight jeans and nylon underwear.

In the event that you do contract a UTI, there are many treatments available, both over the counter and by prescription. Some pharmaceutical UTI treatments are known to cause serious and uncomfortable side effects, so it is always good to look for a risk-free all-natural alternative.

UTIs do not have a quick fix solution that can, or should, be dealt with a few treatments then forgotten. Attempts to do so will often result in an unsatisfying experience or recurring infections. For real and effective UTI relief, be sure to choose the best treatment you can find and stick with it until your infection has completely cleared.


References:

1 - MedicineNet.com

2 - MedicineNet.com

3 - WebMD