¬†Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common medical problem, accounting for about 8.5 million doctor visits per year. Women are more prone to UTIs than men, possibly because women's urethras are shorter than those of men and allow bacteria to reach their bladders more easily. One of every five women will develop a UTI over the course of her life.
UTI: How It Happens
Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria invade and begin to multiply in the organs of the urinary tract ‚ÄĒ the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. These bacteria usually come from the digestive tract and enter through the urethra, the internal tube which carries urine out of your bladder when you urinate.
The infection begins in the urethra and works back through the urinary tract. Most UTIs are discovered and treated when they cause a bladder infection. However, some UTIs will work their way back through the ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and end up causing a kidney infection.
The vast majority of UTIs are caused by one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli), which normally are found in the colon. Sexually transmitted microorganisms like chlamydia and mycoplasma are also known to cause UTIs.
A UTI also can occur if:
* The bladder is not fully drained during urination, giving bacteria a chance to grow in the remaining urine.¬† * A diaphragm pushes against the urethra, making it difficult to completely empty the bladder.
* A man has an enlarged prostate, preventing the bladder from fully draining.
UTI: Common Symptoms
Experiencing a urinary tract infection, or UTI, can be a painful proposition. You might feel:
* a burning sensation when you urinate
* the need to urinate more often
* an urge to go to the bathroom, but nothing comes out
* a constant ache in your lower abdomen
Additionally, your urine might change, becoming smelly, dark, cloudy, or even bloody.
UTI: Late Diagnosis and Treatment
If a UTI makes its way to your kidneys, you will feel much worse overall, with:
¬†¬†¬† * Fever
¬†¬†¬† * Chills
¬†¬†¬† * Nausea
¬†¬†¬† * Lower back pain
Kidney infections require longer periods of treatment, and might even require hospitalization.
UTI: Early Diagnosis and Treatment
Though painful, UTIs that are caught early are easily treated.
Your doctor likely will start with a urine screening. You will be asked to urinate in a cup, which is sent off to a laboratory for analysis. The lab will look for bacteria or blood cells in your urine, and might even test different antibiotics to see which best kills any bacteria found.
UTIs are normally treated with a round of antibiotics lasting one to two weeks. If the infection persists after antibiotic treatment, or if UTIs recur, the doctor might order more tests to see if there are other factors that need to be treated. Those tests may include:
¬†* An intravenous pyelogram, in which injected dye and X-rays are used to gather images of your kidneys,¬†¬† ureters, and bladder.
¬†¬†¬† * An ultrasound exam, which uses sound waves to create images of your urinary tract.
¬†¬†¬† * A cystoscopic exam, in which a thin tube is inserted through the urethra to allow your doctor to look inside your bladder.
Men might have to undergo a rectal exam to see if an enlarged prostate is contributing to the infection.
If you think you might have a UTI, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
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