Urinary Tract Infections 101

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the family doctor each year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over eight million Americans a year contract a UTI, making it an extremely common infection. Here's what you need to know.

What Causes A Urinary Tract Infection?

Bacteria or other microbes can enter the urinary tract. If they are not quickly flushed out by urination, they can quickly multiply, leading to what many commonly call a bladder infection. Medical professionals call it a urinary tract infection because unfortunately, not only the bladder can be affected. The ureters are two tubes that connect the bladder to each of the kidneys. Bacteria can go up the ureters and into the kidneys as well. The urethra, the opening for urination, and the bladder is considered the lower urinary tract system whereas the ureters and the kidneys are considered the upper urinary tract. The majority of urinary tract infections occur in the lower urinary tract system.

A bladder infection is called cystitis; if the infection is contained to the urethra, it's urethritis; and, a kidney infection is called pyelonephritis. The ureters don't typically become infected themselves, they just serve as the bacterial highway between the bladder and kidneys.

Sexual activity, poor hygiene, improper wiping after using the bathroom, diabetes, and problems emptying the bladder completely can all cause a UTI. 

Who Is At Risk Of A Urinary Tract Infection?

Women are most at risk. This is because of the anatomical differences between men and women. The urethra in women is only about two inches long while a man's is about eight inches long. This means the route for bacteria to enter the urinary tract is much shorter in women than in men. It is even shorter in young girls and infants, making them especially susceptible. Pregnant and overweight women are also more susceptible to a UTI. Those who are bedridden or have impaired immune systems are also more prone to infection.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Urinary Tract Infection?

Most women have very common symptoms. These include:

  • A feeling of burning when going to the bathroom
  • Nocturia with little output
  • Strong smelling urine that may also be cloudy or blood-tinged
  • Lower abdominal and back pain
  • Fever
  • General malaise

Infections in small children may not have the typical symptoms, and of course, babies can't communicate symptoms, so a fever and agitation may be the first visible sign.

How Are Urinary Tract Infections Treated?

You will need to get a urine test done at a doctor's office. You can contact Kinston Medical Specialists PA for more information. Once your doctor sends the sample to a lab, they will test it for the presence of bacteria. If bacteria is present, an antibiotic will be prescribed. The symptoms usually abate within a day or two, but it is important to continue the entire course of antibiotics.