A urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection that takes place anywhere within the urinary tract including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The vast majority of urinary tract infections occur within the urinary bladder.
Women have a higher risk of developing a UTI than men owing to the short length of the female urethra and its location in the vagina, a moist environment, and its proximity near the rectum, a source of bacteria. The male penis creates a physical separation from the bacterial environment of the rectum and the longer urethral length makes it more difficult for bacteria to enter the end of the urethra at the meatus and initiate a UTI.
Typically, urinary tract infections are limited to the bladder and cause mild symptoms such as burning with urination, urgency, and frequency of urination; however, in certain situations, urinary tract infections can ascend into the ureters and kidneys and result in more serious and even life-threatening conditions.
The treatment for most urinary tract infections is antibiotic therapy; however, certain conditions require and intervention in addition to antibiotics such as a catheter to relieve urinary retention, lithotripsy to break up a stone, or a prostate reduction procedure.
Although on occasion a UTI can be asymptomatic, typical symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
A urinary tract infection takes place when bacteria enter the urinary tract via the urethra and then begins to grow in numbers within the urinary tract. Under normal circumstances, the body’s natural defense mechanisms can fight off invading microbes; however, when these mechanisms fail, bacteria can multiply in the urethra, bladder, or kidneys resulting in a UTI.
Cystitis occurs when bacteria, most commonly E. Coli from the GI tract, enters the urethra and multiply in the bladder. In women, the physical act of intercourse can allow bacteria to enter the urethra resulting in cystitis. Women are at increased risk for a UTI owing to their short urethra and its proximity to the anus.
Urethritis is an infection in the urethra and can occur as a result of STDS such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, mycoplasma, and common GI bacteria.
Urinary tract infections are more common in women than in men. Risk factors associated with UTIs in women include:
Additional UTI risk factors:
Under normal circumstances, when a UTI is treated promptly and correctly, it is rare to have any complications or significant consequences.
Complications however may occur especially in patients with recurrent UTIs and these include permanent kidney damage or scarring from recurrent UTIs or pyelonephritis, an increased risk of premature delivery or low birth weight infants in pregnant women, urethral strictures or scarring as well as severe bacterial growth and entry into the bloodstream called sepsis.
In general, increasing water. Intake to flush bacteria out before it gets a hold is helpful. Cranberry juice is commonly recommended to decrease the risk for a UTI, but no studies are supporting its use. Women should always wipe from front to back and empty their bladders after intercourse. Avoid irritating products such as deodorants, douches, and powders. Try and use other birth control methods other than diaphragms or spermicide-treated condoms.
In more complicated circumstances such as patients with stones or urinary tract abnormalities, surgical interventions might be recommended to decrease the risk of urinary tract infections.
There is a commonly held belief that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets will help to treat or prevent a urinary tract infection. There is an active ingredient in cranberries called A-type proanthocyanidins that may prevent the adherence of E.coli bacteria to the bladder wall. The amount of this active ingredient in supplements and juice does vary significantly. Additionally, studies looking at clinical UTIs in patients taking supplements or drinking cranberry juices are mixed with some showing benefits and others showing no benefit at all. Some definitive recommendations that are scientifically proven to prevent UTIs are taking precautions with sexual activity. Patients with more sexual partners are at higher risk for UTIs. Using spermicides and diaphragms is additionally associated with an increased risk for UTIs. Good bowel habits help prevent UTIs. Patients with constipation or diarrhea tend to have more pathological bacteria in and around the vagina. Balancing "good" bacteria with the "bad" by taking probiotics with lactobacillus and using estrogen cream in post-menopausal women to optimize the pH for the "good" bacteria can help prevent UTIs as well.