A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection of the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The urinary tract refers to just the bladder and the urethra, and an infection can develop in either of these areas. These infections occur much more frequently in women than in men and may cause intense pain and discomfort.
Causes of a UTI
Most urinary tract infections are a result of a bacterial infection, but may also develop as a result of:
- Use of diaphragm or condom with spermicidal agents
- Long-term use of a catheter
- Loss of estrogen due to menopause
Sexual activity can often spread bacteria and cause a UTI. In some cases, diabetes may cause a decrease in immune function causing some individuals to be more susceptible to urinary tract infections.
Symptoms of a UTI
A urinary tract infection causes the lining of the bladder and urethra to become inflamed and irritated. The irritation can cause pain in the abdomen and pelvic area and may cause some of the following symptoms:
- Burning with urination
- Strong, constant urge to urinate
Blood in the urine may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
Diagnosis of a UTI
Urinary tract infections are diagnosed through a physical examination and a review of symptoms. A simple urine test is also perfomed to detect the presence of bacteria in the urine. In some cases, an ultrasound is performed to further examine the urinary tract.
Treatment of a UTI
Most urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. Pain medication may be prescribed to relieve the burning sensation while urinating. Patients are also advised to drink plenty of fluids. Left untreated, a urinary tract infection can lead to kidney infections and cause permanent damage to the kidneys.
Prevention of a UTI
While not all urinary tract infections can be avoided, the following recommendations may help to prevent a UTI from occurring:
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep well hydrated
- Urinate after intercourse to flush bacteria
- Do not use contraceptives with spermicidal foam
- Use proper hygiene by wiping from front to back after bowel movements
It is also important to empty the bladder completely when urinating.