What is UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the pathway (tract) from where your urine passes. The infection can occur at different points in the pathway (urinary tract) resulting in different types of UTI infection.
- Infection of the bladder (cystitis)
- Infection of one or both kidneys (pyelonephritis or kidney infection)
- Infection of the tubes which carry urine from kidneys to the bladder.
- Infection of the tube that empties urine outside (urethritis).
What can be the causes of UTI?
It is mainly caused by bacterial infections. The bladder is the most common part of the urinary system which gets infected. Infection can then travel upwards from bladder to kidneys or any other part of the body.
UTI are more common in females because as compared to males their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus. That’s the reason the chances of getting UTI, after sexual activity, is more in females. Women who have achieved menopause are also more prone to UTI.
Which are the various medical conditions that make you prone to UTI?
- Problems emptying the bladder completely
- Having a urinary catheter (the tube which helps you to pass urine)
- BPH (Benign Hypertrophy of Prostate) – as it blocks the outflow of urine.
- Kidney stones
- Staying bedridden or on the chair for a long period of time (for example, while you are recovering from a hip fracture)
- Surgery or other procedure involving the urinary tract
What are the symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection?
The most common symptoms of UTI include difficulty passing urine, painful or burning sensation while passing urine, tummy ache itching around urethral opening, urge to pass urine even after voiding your bladder. All these symptoms can be accompanied by low grade fever.
When the kidneys get involved too, symptoms become severe and also include high-grade fever, chills at night, intense pain in the lower part of the tummy, back or groin area. It can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Which tests are done for UTI?
Your doctor will ask you to get your urine tested for which you have to provide a early morning fresh urine sample for the following tests:
- Urine Examination: It is done to look for WBCs, RBCs, bacteria etc. Most of the time you won’t need any other test.
- Urine culture – This test may be done to identify the bacteria and determine the best antibiotic for treatment. This test becomes more important when your infection doesn’t go away because of resistant to antibiotics.
Blood tests such as complete blood count (CBC) and a blood culture may be done as well.
For serious infections and symptoms, which dont go away easily, your doctor may ask you to get some other tests done like CT scan of the abdomen, Intravenous pyelogram (IVP), Kidney ultrasound etc.
What are the treatment options available for UTI?
Your doctor will first check if the infection is just in the bladder, or it has reached to your kidneys too.
- For mild cases of bladder infection, your doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys. For a simple bladder infection, you will take antibiotics for 3 days (women) or 7 to 14 days (men).
- If you are pregnant or have diabetes, or have a mild kidney infection, you will most often take antibiotics for 7 to 14 days.
- Always make sure to complete the antibiotic course, even if you feel better. If you do not finish the whole dose of medicine, the infection may return and it may be harder to treat later.
- Drink plenty of water when you have a bladder or kidney infection.
Don’t forget to tell your doctor if you are pregnant. Some antibiotics are not good for the baby. So he will write you safe medicines.
What if you have Recurrent Bladder Infections ?
Some women suffer from repeated bladder infections. Your doctor may suggest you to take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse to prevent an infection. If your infection doesn’t go away then the doctor can order Blood culture test to identify the bacteria which is resistant to antibiotics, so better and strong antibiotic can be prescribed to treat the infection.
What if you have severe UTI ?
You may have to get admit in the hospital if you feel very sick, cannot take medicines by mouth or drink enough fluids. Hospitalization may be needed if you are an older adult, have kidney stones, recently had urinary tract surgery or have any other medical problems like cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury. You may need hospitalization if are pregnant and also have a fever.
You will receive fluids and antibiotics through a vein in the hospital.
Normally it takes 24 to 48 hours to see good improvement. When kidneys are also involved, recovery time can go to 1 week or longer.
What can be the possible complications of UTI?
Complications may include severe blood infection and even can result in permanent kidney damage.
How can you prevent UTI?
Diet and lifestyle changes may help prevent some UTIs. Some estrogen-based creams can be used to prevent UTI.