Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial or fungal infection in the urinary tract, most commonly in the bladder, but can spread in to the kidneys.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are responsible for more than seven million visits to physicians’ offices per year and are not specific to any age group or gender.  Women are more prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.  Studies prove that 60% of all women will experience a UTI in their lifetime and between 20% and 40% of them will have a repeat infection.

Urinary Tract Infection Development

Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria or fungus. Large numbers of bacteria live on your skin forming a protective barrier.  When this bacteria is introduced into the urinary track system through the urethra an infection can occur. A bladder infection is known as cystitis and a kidney infection is known as pyelonephritis. Kidney infections are much less common but are often more serious than bladder infections and require different treatment.

There are many causes for UTIs and a detailed medical history provided to your urologist will assist with diagnosis and treatment and to determine if you may have an increased risk of developing frequent or recurring UTIs in the future.

Urinary Tract Infection Signs & Symptoms

When you have a urinary tract infection, the lining of the bladder and urethra become red and irritated just as your throat does when you have a cold. This irritation can cause pain in your abdomen and pelvic area and may make you feel like emptying your bladder more frequently than usual.  You may only produce a few drops of urine at a time &/or feel a burning sensation as your urine comes out.  Some patients also experience urine that is discolored or cloudy and has an unpleasant odor.

Urinary Tract Infection Diagnosis

UTIs are categorized as either simple (uncomplicated) or complicated. Simple UTIs are infections that occur in normal urinary tracts. Complicated UTIs occur in patients with anatomically (recent catheter placement, child birth or obstruction) or functional (renal disease) existing conditions; or when the bacteria causing the infection is resistant to many antibiotic medications.

Diagnosis and confirmation of an active UTI is performed by a urinalysis &/or urine culture. A urine sample is collected, sent to a lab and is examined under a microscope by looking for bacteria or white blood cells in the urine that indicates an infection. Your physician may also take a urine culture if needed to determine what bacteria is present and what medications will treat the infection efficiently. If you ever see blood in your urine, you should contact your doctor right away. Blood in the urine may be caused by a UTI but it may also be from a different problem in the urinary tract.

Urinary Tract Infection Treatment 

A simple UTI can be treated with a short course of oral antibiotics, usually a 3 to 5 day course of antibiotics is effective. Some infections may need to be treated for several weeks depending on the type and amount bacteria present in the urine. Depending on the type of antibiotic used, you may take a single dose of medication a day or up to four daily doses. You need to complete the full course of medication prescribed for you even if all symptoms have been resolved to ensure that treatment was effective. Unless UTIs are fully treated, they can frequently return and may develop a resistance to the medication you were prescribed and can become more difficult to treat. You should also drink plenty of water to help keep kidney function normal and to flush the urinary tract.

If the UTI is a complicated infection, then a longer period of antibiotics is given and usually is started intravenously in the hospital. After a short period of intravenous antibiotics, then the antibiotics are given by mouth for a period up to several weeks. Kidney infections have usually been treated as a complicated UTI.

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