What Are Urinary Tract Infections? An Inside Look Into the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Are Urinary Tract Infections? An Inside Look Into the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Urinary tract infections, commonly known as UTIs, are common, especially in women, older people, and babies. Statistics show that roughly one in two women will get a UTI in their lifetime. Men also get UTIs but not as much as women. Around one in 20 men will get a urinary tract infection in their lifetime.

Annually, we treat many people suffering from UTIs in our emergency room in San Antonio. This trend spreads across the country, and yearly, close to 10 million visits to the ER near you are attributed to UTIs.

The urinary tract infection affects any part of your urinary system.

What Is the Urinary Tract?

The urinary tract is where your body makes and stores urine. The urinary tract is made of the following parts:

  • Ureters – these are thin tubes that transport the urine from the kidneys to the bladder

  • Kidneys – these are the filters in your body responsible for removing the water and waste from your blood.

  • Bladder – this is the sac-like container that stores the urine before it is excreted

  • Urethra – this is the tube that carries your urine from the bladder to outside of your body

Urinary Tract Infections Overview

Most urinary tract infections typically involve the lower urinary tract, which encompasses the urethra and the bladder. However, the upper urinary tract can also be infected. The upper UTIs are much rare than the lower UTIs, but they tend to be more severe.

Mostly, UTIs are caused by bacteria, but in some cases, they are caused by fungi. In some rare cases, viruses can cause urinary tract infections.

Symptoms

For most people, urinary tract infections will not always cause symptoms, but if you exhibit any symptoms, they may include:

  • A burning sensation when you urinate
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • A strong urge to urinate
  • Passing small amounts of urine frequently
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Urine that looks like tea
  • Rectal pain in men

UTI symptoms in women include pelvic pain, plus the other common symptoms.

Upper UTIs that affect the kidneys can be life-threatening if the bacteria causing the infection gets into the blood. Symptoms of upper urinary tract infections include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain and tenderness in the upper sides and back

Types of UTIs

An infection can happen anywhere in your urinary tract. Each kind of urinary tract infection is known by a different name depending on where it is:

  • Acute pyelonephritis (kidneys) – the symptoms include high fever, nausea, vomiting, and chills

  • Urethritis (urethra) – you might experience burning with urination and discharge

  • Cystitis (bladder) – the symptoms include pelvic pressure, lower abdomen discomfort, frequent painful urination and blood in the urine

Causes of UTIs

Women have a higher chance of contracting UTIs because of their anatomy. They have shorter urethras than men. The urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body, is near the anus. This is why women are advised by doctors to wipe from front to back after they use the bathroom.

The bacteria from the anus, like E. coli, sometimes get out from your anus and can get into the urethra. They can easily travel to your bladder, and if the infection is untreated, it might infect your kidneys.

Also, having sex can introduce bacteria into your urethra.

Risk Factors

If there is anything that increases the amount of time that your bladder is emptied or causes irritation in the urinary tract, you might get UTIs. Some factors can also increase the risk of you getting an infection, and these include:

  • Age
  • A previous UTI
  • Prolonged bed rest or reduced mobility
  • Kidney stones
  • Prolonged use of urinary catheters
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • A weakened immune system
  • Abnormally developed urinary tract since birth

Risk factors that are unique to women are:

  • Shorter urethras
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Spermicides
  • Non-lubricated latex condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • A decrease in estrogen levels

Treatment

When you suspect that you have a UTI, get to the ER near you, where our doctor will have your urine sample tested. If there is UTI causing bacteria present, our doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for UTI.

Antibiotics are the most common UTI treatment. Ensure that you take all the prescribed medicine even after you feel better. Drink plenty of water as this will also help flush the bacteria from your body.

When you have any signs of UTI, do not hesitate to call our doctor at Express ER in San Antonio, so as the infection can be treated before it spreads.

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