A urinary tract infection or UTI occurs when bacterial cells are found in the urine. Normally sterile before being passed from the body, urine is produced to excrete waste products from the body via the kidneys and out through the urethra. The urinary tract consists of the kidney, the ureters (tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder), the bladder, muscles and the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the external orifice.
If an infection is limited to the urethra, it is called urethritis, if it concerns the bladder, it is called cystitis; involving the kidneys is named pyelonephritis.
Causes of a Urinary Tract Infection
The bacteria that causes a UTI is normally found in the digestive tract, and is found to be abnormal to the bladder. As it is more common in women than men, experts believe that the reason for this is due to the shorter length and location of the urethra; it is a lot closer to the anus than in men, and it is thought that bacteria from the digestive tract migrates to the frontal area.
It can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, either from the transmission of germs from the anus, or passed on from the partner if they are suffering from a UTI themselves.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptom of a UTI is finding the urge to pass urine is a lot more frequent than normal. Often sufferers want to go to the toilet often, but when trying, cannot pass anything.
When able to pass water, it is often accompanied by a burning sensation that can be very uncomfortable for some. Urine may appear cloudy or even blood stained, and may cause pelvic pain. Any pain felt in the kidney area indicates the infection has reached the kidneys and needs immediate treatment, as untreated kidney infections can cause permanent damage.
Being female seems to be the greatest risk factor as the incidence is much higher in women than men. There is also further increased risk if pregnant.
Those who are diabetic are more probable to develop a UTI, as are those who wear a catheter or use an intermittent catheter. Any foreign body of the urinary tract raises the chances of developing an infection; factors such as tumours or stones all increase the likelihood of an infection.
Children whom suffer from these types of infections are often found to have some degree of anatomical abnormality which will need treating.
Increasing oral intake of fluids is useful for helping to flush toxins away and out of the bladder. Drinking cranberry juice has been proven to help prevent the bacteria from adhering to the tissues of the urinary tract, so a daily drink of cranberry coupled with a generous intake of water will help to clear the infection.
Anti-biotics are frequently prescribed for the treatment of this infection, and the full course should be taken or symptoms may return.
Anatomical abnormalities, tumours or stones will need to be removed, often by a surgical procedure in order for the condition to be eliminated.
If pregnant, see your GP immediately who will prescribe anti-biotics, as a urine infection can complicate the pregnancy. Scientists are currently exploring the benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of a UTI.
- Drinking plenty of fluids, including cranberry juice will help to stave off infections.
- If you are prone to infections, it may be worth considering a change in sexual practices as this may be the cause.
- When passing water make sure the bladder is fully emptied.
- When using toilet roll, always clean the area from front to back to avoid spreading the bacteria from anus to urethra.
- A diet rich in zinc and vitamin C increase the body’s immunity to infections.
Urinary tract infections are a very common and often recurrent problem that affects more women than men. By employing some preventative measures the risk of developing a UTI may be lowered, some however will still be at significant risk of developing an infection.