Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection which occurs in any part of the urinary tract that includes the bladder, kidneys, ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder) and the urethra (the tube that allows the bladder to be emptied). Infections of the bladder or the urethra are the most common of all.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection
Most often, a urinary tract infection arises as the bacteria enter urethra and travel up to the bladder, where they multiply.
Bladder infections are generally caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, which are very commonly found in the human gut. Infections of the urethra can be caused by E. coli, or by sexually transmitted infections, like herpes or chlamydia.
Bacteria in the bladder can also move up to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection (known as pyelonephritis), which can cause permanent kidney damage. An untreated urinary tract infection in the bladder can lead to such an infection.
Diagnosis of urinary tract infection
To diagnose a urinary tract infection, firstly doctors collect a urine sample to look for bacteria or byproducts from bacteria, such as red and white blood cells. Doctors can also perform a urine culture test in which the urine sample is cultured in a lab to see if it grows bacteria which takes about 24 to 48 hours. The latter test can help doctors to determine which antibiotics are most suitable to treat the infection.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection
Some of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
- A strong and frequent urge to urinate often, even after you've just emptied your bladder
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Pain in the back or lower abdomen (pelvic pain for women, rectal pain for men)
Signs of a kidney infection may include:
- Chills or night sweats
- Pain in the back, side or groin area
- Flushed or reddened skin
- Nausea and vomiting
Treatment of urinary tract infection
Generally, a urinary tract infection is treated with antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys. Symptoms of a bladder infection go away within one to two days after taking antibiotics.
Women with recurrent UTIs meaning having more than two or three UTIs in a year may be told to have antibiotics after sexual activity to prevent infection. Longer courses of antibiotics, or stronger doses, also may be required for people with recurrent infections.
A more severe infection of the kidneys will require hospital treatment. Hospital treatment will further involve injecting fluids and antibiotics through a vein. Some people may need surgery if the infection is caused by a problem with the structure of the urinary tract.
Urinary tract infections in children can be serious as the infection can sometimes affect the growth of the kidneys. Children who have had a urinary tract infection will require further testing to make sure their urine is not traveling back up into the kidneys.