Urinary tract infection (UTI) – Symptoms and causes

Understanding Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Symptoms and Causes

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common condition caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. While UTIs are more frequent in women, anyone can experience them.

Symptoms of a UTI:

  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating (dysuria)
  • Frequent urination, even with small amounts passed (urgency)
  • Feeling the need to urinate even after emptying the bladder (frequency)
  • Cloudy, bloody, or strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic or lower abdominal pain
  • Low-grade fever (may not be present in all cases)

Types of UTIs:

  • Cystitis: This is the most common type of UTI, affecting the bladder.
  • Urethritis: This infection involves the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body.
  • Pyelonephritis: This is a more serious infection that affects the kidneys, and requires immediate medical attention.

Causes of UTIs:

  • Bacteria: The most common cause of UTIs is E. coli bacteria, which normally lives in the intestines but can travel to the urethra.
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder: This can allow bacteria to grow and multiply.
  • Structural abnormalities in the urinary tract: Certain conditions like blockages or narrowing in the urinary tract can increase the risk of UTIs.
  • Sexual activity: Sexual intercourse can introduce bacteria into the urethra, increasing the risk of UTIs in women, especially those prone to them.
  • Catheter use: Having a catheter inserted into the bladder can increase the risk of UTIs.

Prevention Tips:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Urinate when you feel the urge, and don’t hold it in.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra.
  • Empty your bladder completely after urination.
  • Drink cranberry juice, although its effectiveness is debated and should not replace seeking medical attention.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.

Seeking Help:

If you experience any symptoms of a UTI, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications like kidney infections. Your doctor will likely perform a urine test to diagnose the UTI and prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacteria.

Remember, UTIs are treatable, and following preventive measures can significantly reduce your risk of experiencing them. If you have concerns about UTIs, talk to your doctor for personalized advice.