A urinary tract infection can be found within any part of your urinary system such as kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
These infections are generally referred to as a UTI. However, this can include a variety of conditions ranging from a simple infection to pain, high fever, and a condition so complex that it can lead to more severe complications.
Urinary tract infections can appear as acute, chronic or repetitive (recurrent), which can be caused by bacteria, fungi or a virus.
UTI infections are usually divided into two groups:
Lower urinary tract infections – including urinary bladder infections. Bacteria normally found in the gut are the leading cause of lower urinary tract infections. The bacteria is transported from the anus to the urethra and bladder, where they grow and cause infection.
Upper urinary tract infections – including ureter and kidneys, also known as Pyelonephritis or Kidney Infection.
Upper urinary tract infections occur when bacteria is transported from the urinary bladder to the kidneys. Sometimes, they can be transported from other areas of the body through the bloodstream and placed in the kidneys.
Women are more often affected by urinary tract infections than men. This is because women have shorter ureters, which facilitates the movement of bacteria into the bladder.
Sexual intercourse can increase the cause of infection. Also, the use of contraceptive diaphragms and spermicides can alter the normal bacterial environment around the urethra and favour infection.
In pregnant women, temporary physiological and anatomical changes of the urinary tract make them more prone to cystitis and pyelonephritis. Bladder and kidney infections can turn into a serious problem for pregnant women and their babies, as they increase the risk for premature contractions or premature birth and can pose a risk to the life of the fetus.
What are the symptoms?
Upper urinary tract infections can cause the following symptoms:
– Frequent urination
– Pain, discomfort or burning when urinating
– Pain or pressure in the bladder area
– Turbid-coloured urine or unusual odour
– Nausea and vomiting
– Back pain
– Frequent urination at night
How can the infection be treated?
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. Laboratory tests can determine which antibiotic is right for you.
Uncomplicated lower urinary tract infections are treated for a shorter time, while pregnant women or patients suffering from diabetes may need longer treatment.
Upper urinary tract infections may require antibiotics for up to 14 days. Whereas, if dealing with a severe upper urinary tract infection, the need for hospitalization may arise. This is mainly for cases that include nausea, vomiting and fever symptoms.
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. The main causes include urinary tract infections, constipation, enlarged prostate, and drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. Certain medical conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, spinal cord injuries), damage to the bladder caused during surgery and taking certain medications (diuretics, some antidepressants, sedatives) are also causes. Increasing age, being overweight and smoking can all increase the risk of developing urinary incontinence. Treatment will depend on the cause.