Urinary Tract Infection
What is the urinary tract?
This is the system that makes, stores and carries urine out of the body. It includes the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and the urethra. The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that make urine. They are located against the spine in the lower back. The two ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder is like a balloon in the lower front of the abdomen that stores urine. The urethra is the small tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by bacteria (germs) that travel up the urethra into the urinary tract. A UTI can occur anywhere in the urinary tract. Most often, the bladder becomes infected. This is a lower UTI, called a bladder infection or “cystitis.” When bacteria travel up beyond the bladder to the kidneys, this can be more serious. This is called a kidney infection, or “pyelonephritis.”
What causes a UTI?
Bacteria (germs) do not normally live in the urinary tract. A UTI occurs when bacteria travel up into the urinary tract. Most of the time your body can get rid of these bacteria. When it can’t, an infection develops. Any condition that makes it hard to empty the bladder or allows more bacteria to enter can cause a UTI. Most often these bacteria come from normal bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Other risk factors for getting a UTI include:
· The use of antibacterial douches
· The use of spermicides or a diaphragm for contraception in women
· Menopause in women
· Kidney stones
What are the symptoms of a lower UTI, or bladder infection in an adult?
· A burning sensation or pain with urination
· Feeling the need to urinate more often than usual
· Feeling the urge to urinate but not being able to, or going just a little
· Leaking urine
· Cloudy, dark or smelly urine, or blood in the urine
· Mild low stomach pain
What are the symptoms of a UTI in a child?
Older school-aged children can have the same symptoms as an adult. Younger children can have non-specific symptoms. It is important for young children to be seen and evaluated by a health care provider because these same symptoms may be due to other serious conditions or illnesses.
· Vomiting or diarrhea
· Stomach pain or back pain
· Irritability or fussiness
· Wetting even after the child is potty trained
What are the symptoms of a more serious UTI or kidney infection?
The same symptoms as with a simple UTI may be present. In addition, a kidney infection can cause other symptoms. If any of these symptoms are present, it is important to be seen by a health care provider as soon as possible to determine if a serious infection is present. Delaying treatment can cause serious complications.
· Fever (temperature higher than 100.4 F or 38 C)
· Chills and shaking
· Pain in the flank or side of the lower back
· Severe abdominal pain
· Nausea or vomiting
Could these symptoms be something else?
It is important to talk to a health-care provider to make sure, because symptoms of a UTI can also occur with other conditions or illnesses. Persons with infection or inflammation of the urethra may have the same symptoms as a UTI. Painful urination may also be the result of medications, sensitivity to chemicals, something pressing on the bladder or a kidney stone.
How is a UTI diagnosed?
A UTI is usually diagnosed based on the person’s symptoms. A urine test may be done to look for white blood cells. These cells fight infection, so when they are present in the urine, it suggests an infection. A urine culture may also be done. This test uses a small amount of urine to try to grow bacteria. This test usually takes about 48 hours to get results. The urine culture is important for pregnant women, those with frequent infections, or if the symptoms are not going away within 2 to 3 days of starting an antibiotic for treatment of a UTI.
How is a UTI treated?
A simple bladder infection is usually treated with an antibiotic by mouth. Drinking more fluid may help to flush the bacteria out. Cranberry juice/pills do not help to treat a UTI (but may help to prevent them). Sometimes a medicine that numbs the bladder may be prescribed along with the antibiotic. This medicine can make the urine a different color, usually orange. More severe infections may have to be treated in the hospital. Pregnant women should usually need a urine culture. Kidney infections are more common in pregnancy. A kidney infection during pregnancy can cause early labor.
What do I do if I’m not getting better with treatment?
If your symptoms stay the same after taking the medicine for 2 to 3 days, the treatment may not be working. It is important to see a health care provider if you are staying the same, getting worse, or if you are getting new symptoms. It is important to let your health care provider know if you have a fever higher than 100.5 degrees, or have chills, nausea, vomiting or severe back or stomach pain.
How do I prevent a UTI?
There are tips to help prevent a UTI.
· Drink plenty of fluids.
· Drinking cranberry juice may help some individuals
· Urinate when you feel the need rather than holding urine
· Wear loose-fitting clothing
If you have recurrent infections, you may need further exams and tests. It is important to see a health care professional as additional treatments may be needed.