Last updated on Jan 19th, 2021 at 12:50 pm
The urinary tract comprises the kidneys, uterus, bladder, and urethra. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by pathogenic organisms (for example, bacteria, fungi, or parasites) in any of the structures that comprise the urinary tract.
UTIs are common, and although some infections go unnoticed, UTIs can cause problems that range from dysuria (pain and/or burning when urinating) to organ damage and even death. The kidneys are the active organs that produce urine every day, help keep electrolytes and fluids (for example, potassium, sodium and water) in balance, assist in the removal of waste products (urea), and produce a hormone that aids in the formation of red blood cells. If kidneys are injured or destroyed by infection, these vital functions can be damaged or lost.
For someone who is experiencing a UTI for the first time (or if it has been a while since they have had one), the symptoms can be frightening. On the other hand, some people with a urinary tract infection may not experience any symptoms at all. In general, the most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection involve the process of urination:
• Pain or a burning feeling during urination
• A feeling of urgency, or feeling the need to urinate frequently
• An altered appearance of the urine, either bloody (red) or cloudy (containing pus)
• Pain or pressure in the rectum (men) or in the area of the pubic bone (women)
• Passing only a tiny amount of urine even when the urge to urinate is strong
There are many risk factors for UTIs. In general, any interruption of the usual flow of urine is a risk factor for a UTI. For example, kidney stones, urethral strictures, an enlarged prostate, or any anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract increases infection risk. There are reports that suggest that women who use a diaphragm or who have partners that use condoms with spermicidal foam are at increased risk for UTIs. In addition, females who become sexually active seem to have a higher risk of UTI. The term, ‘honeymoon cystitis’, is sometimes applied to a UTI acquired either during the first sexual encounter or a UTI after a short interval of frequent sexual activity.
Men over the age of 60 have a higher risk for UTIs because many men at or above that age develop enlarged prostates that may cause slow and incomplete bladder emptying. Patients who undergo urologic surgery, those with chronic diseases such as diabetics or those who are immunosuppressed (HIV or cancer patients), also are at higher risk for UTIs.
Seek medical attention if you have a UTI.
Examples of home treatments that may help to prevent UTIs are as follows:
• Increasing fluid intake: This may work by washing out organisms in the tract, making it more difficult for pathogens to adhere or stay in close proximity to human cells.
• Not delaying in emptying the bladder (urination): This has the same effects of increasing fluid intake and helps the bladder reduce the number of pathogens that may reach the bladder.
While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.