A urinary tract infection (UTI) is the infection of the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, prostate (in men) and urethra. Urinary tract infections develop when bacteria develop in the urinary system. Lower urinary tract infection or cystitis is bacterial infection that is confined only to the bladder and urethra, while upper urinary tract infection or pyelonephritis is a bacterial infection of the kidneys. For women, the risk of having a UTI is greater than men. This is probably because of a shorter urethra, so it is easier for the bacteria to move up to bladder.
Normal urine contains no bacteria (germs). Bacteria can get into the urine and the urinary tract from the skin around the rectum and genitals by travelling up the urethra into the bladder and finally to the kidneys through the ureters. Bacteria are more likely to get into the urinary tract following sexual intercourse, use of a diaphragm for birth control or after menopause.
The following risk factors increase the likelihood of having a urinary tract infection:
If you have a cystitis or bladder infection, you may experience an intense urge to pass urine, pain or burning sensation when urinating, and urine may look cloudy, bloody or have a foul smell. If you have pyelonephritis or kidney infection you may have fever with chills, flushed, reddened skin, pain in the back, nausea and vomiting.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and order the following tests if a UTI is suspected:
Antibiotics are usually used to manage urinary tract infections. Depending on the type of infection present antibiotic therapy may be given either by mouth, IV or both. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to relieve burning pain and urge to urinate. Surgery may be needed if anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract are causing UTI.