A urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur in any part of the urinary tract. Bacteria cause the vast majority of UTIs. Fungi or viruses can also cause UTIs.
UTIs are the second most common type of infection in humans. The National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) reports that UTIs account for over 8 million doctor visits annually.
Anything that reduces bladder emptying or irritates the urinary tract can cause UTIs. Many factors can put someone at risk.
Blockages that make it difficult to empty the bladder can cause a UTI. Obstructions can be caused by an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and certain forms of cancer.
Women are more likely to get UTIs. This is because their urethras are shorter. UTIs in men are less common and more serious.
Pressure on the urinary tract during sex can move bacteria from the colon into the bladder. Most women have bacteria in their urine after intercourse. However, the body usually can get rid of these pathogens within 24 hours. Bowel bacteria may have properties that allow them to stick to the bladder.
Wiping from back to front after going to the bathroom can lead to a UTI. This motion drags bacteria from the rectal area towards the urethra.
Spermicides can increase UTI risk. They may cause skin irritation in some women. This increases the risk of bacteria entering into the bladder.
Latex condoms can cause increased friction during intercourse. They may also irritate the skin. This may increase the risk of UTI in some individuals. However, condoms are important for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Diaphragms may put pressure on the urethra. This can decrease bladder emptying. Some studies have seen a higher UTI risk in women who use diaphragms.
Diabetes may make patients more susceptible to UTI.
Loss of Estrogen
After menopause, a loss of estrogen changes the normal bacteria in the vagina. This can increase the risk of UTI.
Prolonged Use of Bladder Catheters
Catheters are used when someone cannot urinate normally. These thin, flexible tubes are inserted into the bladder. They allow urine to drain into a container. Long-term catheter use can increase the risk of UTI. They may make it easier for bacteria to get into the bladder. Treatment for a catheter-associated UTI may require removal of the device.
Symptoms of UTI
Symptoms of UTI depend upon what part of the urinary tract is infected.
Lower UTIs are infections of the urethra and bladder. Their symptoms include:
burning with urination
increased frequency of urination with scant amounts of urine being passed
urine that looks like cola or tea
strong odor to urine
pelvic pain (women)
rectal pain (men)
Upper UTIs are infections of the kidneys. These are potentially life threatening, if bacteria move from the infected kidney into the blood. This condition is called sepsis. Sepsis can cause dangerously low blood pressures, shock, and death. Symptoms of upper UTI include:
pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides
Women who are pregnant and have symptoms of UTI should see their doctor right away. UTIs during pregnancy can cause premature delivery and high blood pressure. UTIs during pregnancy are also more likely to spread to the kidneys.