What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection is any type of infection that occurs within the urinary system. The condition is more common amongst women. An untreated infection can spread to the kidneys and cause serious damage.

Why are women more susceptible? It has to do with anatomy. Within the female urinary system, there are the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra. For women, the urethra is shorter than in men. This means that if bacteria are introduced into the urethra, it has a greater chance of moving up the urinary tract and creating an infection. A common cause is wiping back to front after using the bathroom.

When a urinary tract infection is present, you may be aware of certain symptoms. First, there will be a burning sensation when you urinate. Even if you don’t have to go, there is a strong feeling that you need to urinate. Bacteria can also cause urine to smell foul and look cloudy. It is not uncommon to see blood in the urine as well.

Depending on where along the urinary tract the bacteria decided to set up house, you can have a variety of symptoms occur. When the infection occurs in the urethra, the condition is called urethritis. The lining of this passage becomes inflamed and urination is quite painful.

As the infection moves upward to the bladder, the condition is called cystitis. Infections here can cause lower abdominal pain, frequent urination, fever and pressure in the pelvic area. Untreated infections that begin in the urethra or bladder can continue on to the kidneys.

In the kidneys, a urinary tract infection is known as pyelonephritis. Symptoms include high fevers, nausea, vomiting, pain in the side and upper back and flu-like chills and shaking. Infections in the kidneys impair their normal function as filtering organs for the body.

Urinary tract infections have a number of causes which stem from infections that begin in the urethra or the bladder. These infections can occur from sexual contact or introduction of E. coli from the digestive tract into the urethra. We already discussed how E. coli could come in contact with the urethra. The problem concerning sexual intercourse is much the same. The opening of the bladder, anal opening and vagina are so close together that it is easy for bacteria to be introduced into the urethra. Sexually transmitted diseases are most likely the infecting culprit with intercourse.

When you notice any of the symptoms going on within your body, see a doctor. They can tell you the cause of your urinary tract infection and pinpoint ways to treat it. Treating it early has the best overall results. For recurring infections, a longer course of treatment may be warranted. Don’t wait for the infection to get worse.