Urinary Tract Infections: Identifying the Causes and Symptoms

  • December 26, 2020
Urinary Tract Infections: Identifying the Causes & Symptoms

Mr. Kumar knew something was not right when he felt a burning sensation while urinating. Over the next few months, the pain and discomfort worsened and became almost unbearable. On consulting his family physician, Mr. Kumar was advised to go for a urine test and as suspected, he was diagnosed with Urinary Tract Infection.

What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

UTI refers to an infection in the urinary system that may affect any part, such as the kidneys, bladder, urethra or ureter. Most urinary tract infections are caused when E. coli, bacteria found in the genital, vagina and anal area, enter the urethra and contaminate the urinary tract. The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection, also known as cystitis.

Causes and Risk Factors

Urinary tract infections can affect both men and women. However, the latter are more at risk due to the female anatomy. Women have a shorter urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body), located close to the anus. Sometimes, bacteria can get out of your anus, enter the urethra and travel up to your bladder. This may further lead to kidney infections in the long run. To know more about common urological disorders, click here.

Certain factors, such as the following, may put you at risk of developing UTI:

  • Age – urine infections are more common in older adults
  • A previous infection in the urinary tract
  • Sexual activity
  • A blockage in the urinary tract – for example, kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
  • Prolonged use of urinary catheters
  • Poorly managed diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Weakened immunity
  • Poor hygiene

Symptoms to watch out for

The UTI symptom may not always be apparent. However, if infected, you will likely notice the following symptoms:

  • A strong urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Frequent urination – but passing very little amounts of urine every time
  • Cloudy, smelly urine
  • Pain around the pelvic region
  • Blood in urine

If urinary tract infection affects your kidneys, leading to a condition known as acute pyelonephritis, you may experience signs, such as:

  • Fever and chills
  • Pain in the upper back
  • Nausea and vomiting

UTI affecting the bladder exhibits symptoms, like:

  • Discomfort in the lower abdomen
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Painful urination

Infection affecting the urethra results in the following signs:

  • Discharge
  • Dysuria

The above symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and painful, and if ignored for long, may lead to complications, like sepsis and damaged kidneys. Moreover, during pregnancy, UTI can cause your blood pressure to rise abnormally and lead to premature delivery. UTI during pregnancy is also likely to spread to the kidneys. You should see a doctor on experiencing these symptoms to get treated immediately.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor may conduct one or multiple tests to detect UTI and its site of occurrence. The most commonly used procedures include:

  • A urine test
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Urography

Following the diagnosis, the first line of UTI treatment involves antibiotic medications. The dose, however, depends on the severity of the infection. In case of severe urinary tract infection, you may have to undergo treatment with intravenous antibiotics at the hospital.

Most urinary tract infections are curable if treated early. Besides, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of UTI and manage painful symptoms.

  • Drink sufficient water
  • Eat plenty of leafy greens
  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol to avoid irritation
  • Apply a warm heating pad to the abdomen to ease bladder discomfort or pressure

While the above tips can help you cope with urinary tract infections, the best way to treat and prevent its progression is to seek medical help at the earliest, which Mr. Kumar failed to do. Had he not delayed treatment, the chances of recovery would have been better, but due to the severity of the infection, Mr. Kumar is now at risk of other complications and has to take high doses of medications with frequent follow-ups.

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