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Urinary Tract Infection: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms & Investigations

Urinary tract infection, shortly known as UTI, is a bacterial infection that affects the bladder, kidneys, ureters or urethra. These tubes and organs compile the urinary tract. Most UTis are infections of the kidney or bladder.

Urinary Tract Infection

General Details

Urinary tract infections are rarely serious when it comes to a health adult. Still, UTI may cause kidney damage as well as life-threatening if not treated promptly, especially in people who associate other risk factors which predispose to other complications.

Normally, the causes of UTI are represented by bacteria that enter in the urethra and their ascension into the urinary tract. Large bowel bacteria present in the faeces represent the most frequent causes.

Among the most probable causes of urinary tract infection in a woman is sexual contact which will favor the introduction of bacteria into the urethra. Both men and women can experience this infection if they delay to urinate. Other causes that may lead to this illness are obstruction or issues the urinary tract.

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It`s less likely for bacteria in the lymphatic system or the bloodstream to reach the urinary tract.

Anyone who has any of the following signs can experience this infection:

  • Pains and burns when attempting to urinate (dysuria);
  • Fever or chills;
  • The need to urinate often as well as the elimination of a small amount of urine;
  • Vomiting or nausea;
  • Sense of weight or sensitivity in the lower abdomen;
  • Odorous or cloudy urine;
  • Pain in one side or in the back under the chest.

The main majority of these infections are diagnosed on the basis of the signs and urine summary. Urinalysis may be used to confirm the suspicion of this infection, but it`s not always required. A lot of doctors prescribe antibiotics when UTI is concerned without waiting the result of urinalysis if the signs and results of the urine summary suggest this infection.

Further tests could be done if the signs don`t really improve under the treatment or the illness can become complicated during pregnancy, kidney stones, prostate enlargement, diabetes or other medical conditions. Most infections can be treated with success using oral antibiotics. The period of the treatment very much depends on the infection`s location, sex and age, but also on the presence or absence of the medical conditions which favor complications like pregnancy, diabetes or prostate issues.

UTIs are among the most frequent bacterial illnesses of the organism and anyone at just about any age can experience this infection. But the largest group affected by this condition is by far the younger or middle-aged sexes. Children or twins of both sexes also have a high risk of developing urinary tract infections compared to groups of other ages.

How Do You Get Urinary Tract Infection?

Bacteria that enter the urethra and reach the urinary tract represent the main cause of urinary tract infection.

Another infection source is represented by bacteria which live in the large intestine and are present in the stool.

Sexual contacts favor the introduction of bacteria in the urinary tract, especially when women are concerned.

The catheters (small and flexible tubes which are introduced into the bladder for allowing the urine to flow) are common sources of infection in hospitalized persons for long periods of time or those who have these catheters permanently.

On occasion, bacteria may penetrate the lymphatic system or the bloodstream, causing kidney or bladder infections.

Kidney stones, prostate enlargement when men are concerned as well as other urinary tract anomalies may contribute in UTI by limiting the organism`s ability of eliminating urine.

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Some women, due to their genetic structure, are more likely to experience a recurrent infection of their urinary tract.

Risk Factors for Women

Urinary tract infections are more frequent in women who have a sexual activity. The factors that increase the risk for UTI are:

  • Sexual activity: especially in women who use diaphragm and spermicide; studies show that 1 woman can do 3 times more UTIs if her sexual partner uses a condom with spermicide.
  • Pregnancy: the pregnant woman has the risk of causing asymptomatic bacteriuria and developing a symptomatic infection; the risk of premature birth may be increased as well.
  • Previous urinary tract infections.
  • Using hygienic items that contain deodorant.
  • Insufficient fluid intake: a high consumption of fluids may increase the volume of urine by reducing bacteria in the bladder and urinary tract.
  • Lack of estrogen allows the development of bacteria which cause urinary tract infection, which favor their multiplication faster in the urethra and vagina; premenopausal and postmenopausal women who don`t take estrogen are at a more increased risk for developing urinary tract infections.

Risk Factors for Men

The factors which increase the risk for urinary tract infections in men are:

  • Prostate affections: the man is more prone to UTIs as he become older due to prostate issues, like prostatitis or prostate enlargement.
  • Anal sex.
  • HIV infection.
  • The non-circumcision of the penis.
  • Unprotected sex with a woman with vaginal infection.

Sometimes men develop UTIs without other complications. The most frequent urinary tract infection is frequently related to prostate issues. This will make them harder to treat. The presence of a large prostate volume which often happens in invariant men reduces the body`s ability to eliminate urine. Recurrent UTIs indicate the presence of epididymitis, prostatitis or other issues of the urinary tract.

Risk Factors for Women & Men

There are several factors that occur in both men and women, which include:

  • Urinary catheter carriers, as it often occurs in elderly adults who are hospitalized for long periods of time or live in the care units.
  • Proving increases the risk of symptomatic bacteriuria as well.
  • Kidney stones or other obstruction involving the urinary tract: they may block urine leakage, which increase the risk of an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Diabetes: persons who experience this illness are at a higher risk of UTI as their immunity is affected; also, experiencing increased blood glucose for a long period of time alters the kidney filtration system.
  • Urinary tract structure issues: they might be present at birth or later in life.

What Are the Symptoms of UTI?

Symptoms of UTI involve:

  • Vomiting & nausea;
  • Pain & burning during urination;
  • Chills & fever;
  • The urgent necessity to urinate often, however eliminating a small urine amount;
  • Bad urine;
  • Pain or weight feeling experienced in the lower abdomen;
  • Cloudy & bad urine;
  • Pink & rust urine.

Some persons might present bacteria in their urinary tract without showing any signs. This case is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. This is found in some cases, like while pregnant or before urinary tract surgery, but is generally neglected if signs don`t really occur.

Other several serious conditions, such as vaginal infection or bladder irritation, cause similar symptoms to those in the UTI. The doctor will evaluate the health of the person if he has one or more of these urinary signs, the subsequent treatment depending largely on the disease`s history and the way he`ll respond to the treatment for UTI.

Pathophysiological Mechanism

Normally, UTI occurs when bacteria penetrate through the urethra and then reach the urinary tract, respectively the bladder and kidneys.

When the bacterial infection is present, but there are no signs present, this is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. This particular infection affects pregnant women and adults who need the urine probe. Asymptomatic bacterium may lead to signs, but in lots of cases there are no obvious signs. When pregnant women are concerned, it may cause premature birth and other issues if no treatment is followed.

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Typically, urinary tract infection causes urinary signs. In some moderate cases, the signs persist for several days. Most such infections are quickly cured with treatment that includes antibiotics at home. The time needed to treat this type of infection and the necessity of performing more analyzes very much depends on the infection`s location, as well as the infection`s severity and frequency. The kidney infections and urinary tract infections which are compatible by other factors need treatment for longer periods of time.

The complications of this type of infection aren`t a general rule, but they may appear. Severe complications involve sepsis or permanent kidney damage. The risk is higher if the UTI isn`t treated or if it doesn`t respond to antibiotic treatment.

Although it`s possible for the infection to return, most recurrent infections are caused by a new one. Around 20% to 30% of women have recurrent UTIs. While in men, the reoccurrence of the infection means either the failure of treatment or the existence of certain urinary tract issues. UTIs in women may rarely be serious infections.

Consult a Specialist

You need to consult your doctor when you feel pain when urinating or other signs of infection that involves your urinary tract associated with:

  • Fever & chills;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Vomiting & nausea;
  • Back pain below the chest, on one side of your body.

Also, you should let your doctor know in the event of the following situations:

  • If you experienced signs of UTI before and now they reappeared;
  • If you experienced minor signs of UTI that didn`t disappear after 1 or 2 days, such as burning sensation or pain when urinating, urine with bad odor, frequent urination or urinating in low amounts;
  • When you are under treatment for UTI and the signs don`t improve or they seem to improve, but they appear;
  • Blood or pus in urine;
  • UTI symptoms in diabetics.

Vigilant Expectation

When adults are concerned, home treatment for minor UTIs generally solves the issue. Home treatment can be tried for 1 or 2 days, and only when the signs are minor. If the symptoms don`t disappear after a couple of days or are serious, you may need the help of a doctor. You won`t need a careful monitoring of the infection`s evolution in the following cases:

  • Pregnancy women;
  • Diabetics or persons with impaired immune system;
  • Persons over 65 years old.


In the present of UTI`s symptoms, the initial evaluation of the doctor may include:

  • History of illness;
  • Physical examination;
  • Urine test.

The doctor might advise for urine culture so he can confirm the diagnosis of UTI. If the symptoms, the illness`s history and the urinalysis examination directs the diagnosis towards on an infection of uncomplicated UTI, the your doctor may begin treatment with antibiotics without needing to wait for urinary culture (urinalysis). – Click here!

Urinalysis is recommended:

  • In women with unusual symptoms, like symptoms that last more than 1 week or symptoms of kidney infection;
  • In men before and after urinary tract infection treatment;
  • To anyone who has more than 65 years and has UTI symptoms;
  • Diabetics, those with damage in their immunity as well as those with issues in their urinary tract;
  • If the UTI symptoms reoccur after 3 days of treatment; a urinalysis may identify the bacterium which caused this particular infection so the doctor can prescribe the most efficient antibiotic;
  • After UTI treatment in people with kidney infection to make certain of the illness healing;
  • To test in young girls the presence of bacteria without any symptoms of the illness.
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