Urinary Tract Infections Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention And Home Remedies

Urinary Tract Infections Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention And Home Remedies

What is a urinary tract infection?

Your urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. It includes your bladder and kidneys camera and the tubes that connect them. When germs get into this system, they can cause an infection.

Urinary Tract Infections Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention And Home Remedies

Most urinary tract infections are bladder infections. A bladder infection usually is not serious if it is treated right away. If you do not take care of a bladder infection, it can spread to your kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause permanent damage.

Women are at greater risk of developing a Urinary Tract Infections than men are. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying. However, serious consequences can occur if a Urinary Tract Infections spreads to your kidneys.

Antibiotics are the typical treatment for a Urinary Tract Infections. But you can take steps to reduce your chance of getting a Urinary Tract Infections in the first place.

What Causes Urinary Tract Infections?

The most common cause of Urinary Tract Infections are bacteria from the bowel that live on the skin near the rectum or in the vagina, which can spread and enter the urinary tract through the urethra. Once these bacteria enter the urethra, they travel upward, causing infection in the bladder and sometimes other parts of the urinary tract.

Sexual intercourse is a common cause of urinary tract infections because the female anatomy can make women more prone to urinary tract infections. During sexual activity, bacteria in the vaginal area are sometimes massaged into the urethra.

Women who change sexual partners or begin having sexual intercourse more frequently may experience bladder or urinary tract infections more often than women who are celibate or in monogamous relationships. Although it is rare, some women get a urinary tract infection every time they have sex.

Another cause of bladder infections or Urinary Tract Infections is waiting too long to urinate. The bladder is a muscle that stretches to hold urine and contracts when the urine is released. Waiting too long past the time you first feel the need to urinate can cause the bladder to stretch beyond its capacity. Over time, this can weaken the bladder muscle. When the bladder is weakened, it may not empty completely and some urine is left in the bladder. This may increase the risk of urinary tract infections or bladder infections.

Other factors that also may increase a woman's risk of developing Urinary Tract Infections include pregnancy, having urinary tract infections as a child, menopause, or diabetes.

Symptoms and Complications of Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:

  • pain or burning during urination
  • frequent desire to urinate, often urgently and immediately
  • unusual discharge from the urethra
  • urine that looks cloudy or smells foul
  • pressure in the lower pelvis
  • fever, with or without chills
  • bedwetting in a person who has normally been dry at night
  • nausea and vomiting
Bladder infections (cystitis) often result in urine that's dark and cloudy. In addition to the above symptoms, bacterial prostatitis (infection of a man's prostate gland) can also cause fever, chills, low back pain, and discomfort or pain around the anus or perineal region. In some cases, a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) can follow a bladder infection by a couple of days, causing abdominal pain, flank pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.

In infants or children, Urinary Tract Infections can cause symptoms such as vomiting or fever and prevent normal weight gain.

Seniors don't necessarily have symptoms that are common to Urinary Tract Infections. Instead, they often have gastrointestinal symptoms including changes in eating habits, or mental signs like confusion. People with catheters or neurologic disorders might only complain of side pains and a fever.

Pregnant women are at increased risk for an Urinary Tract Infections. Typically, pregnant women do not have unusual or unique symptoms. If you are pregnant, your urine should be checked during prenatal visits because an unrecognized infection can cause pregnancy complications or miscarriage.

Although most people have symptoms with a urinary tract infection, some do not. Only your physician can make the distinction and make a correct diagnosis.

When to Seek Medical Care

Any adult or child who develops any of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection needs to be evaluated by a medical professional, preferably within 24 hours. Most medical offices can test urine for infection by using a quick urine "dipstick" test.

  • If you have symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection, call your health-care provider for an appointment, preferably on the very day that symptoms are recognized.
  • If you have symptoms of an upper urinary tract infection involving the kidneys, call your health-care provider immediately. Depending on the situation, he or she will recommend either a visit to the office or to a hospital emergency department.
If you have symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection and any of the following applies to you, you may have a urinary tract infection that can potentially be serious. Go to a hospital emergency department right away.

  • Vomiting and inability to keep down clear fluids or medication
  • Not better after taking antibiotics for two days
  • Pregnant
  • Having diabetes or another disease that affects the immune system (for example, AIDS)
  • Taking medication that suppresses the immune system such as cancer chemotherapy
Infants, children, and elderly people with any of the signs and symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections should go to an emergency department for evaluation.

  • Fever, lethargy, and poor appetite may indicate a simple lower urinary tract infection in these groups, but they may also be signs of something more serious.
  • Urinary tract infections have the potential to make these vulnerable people very ill.

Diagnosing Urinary Tract Infections

Diagnosis of a urinary tract infection is based on information you give about your symptoms, medical and surgical history, medications, habits, and lifestyle. A physical examination and lab tests complete the evaluation.

Your doctor may simply perform a urine dipstick test in the office. Only a few minutes are needed to obtain results. Your doctor may also send your urine to the lab for testing. These results take a few days to come back. This tells your doctor the exact bacteria causing your infection and to which antibiotics these bacteria have resistance or sensitivity. The culture is usually sent for special populations, including men, because they are less likely to get Urinary Tract Infections. It is not necessary to send a culture for everyone because the majority of Urinary Tract Infections are caused by the same bacteria.

  • The single most important lab test is urinalysis. A sample of your urine will be tested for signs of infection, such as the presence of white blood cells and bacteria.
  • In certain circumstances, your urine also may be "cultured." This means that a small amount of the urine is brushed on a sterile nutrient substance in a plastic plate. The plate is allowed to sit for a few days and then examined to see what kind of bacteria are growing on it. These bacteria are treated with different antibiotics to see which works best against them. This helps determine the best treatment for your specific infection.
  • Blood tests usually are not required unless a complicated condition, such as pyelonephritis or kidney failure, is suspected.
You may be asked to give a clean-catch, midstream urine specimen. This avoids contamination of the urine with bacteria from your skin. You should be instructed in how to do this.

  • Midstream means you urinate a little into the toilet before collecting a specimen. The idea is that you don't collect the urine that comes out first, as this urine is often contaminated.
  • Clean-catch refers to a midstream sample that was collected after cleaning the area of the urethral opening.
  • Adult women and older girls: Cleanse the area around your urethral opening gently (but completely) using a sterile wipe or soap and water. Catch the urine midstream. For some women, catheterization (inserting a tube into the bladder) may be the only way to obtain a sterile, uncontaminated specimen.
  • Men and boys: A sterile specimen can usually be obtained with a midstream catch. Uncircumcised males should retract the foreskin and cleanse the area before urinating.
  • Newborns: Urine may be obtained with a procedure in which a needle is introduced through the lower abdominal wall to draw (aspirate) urine from the bladder.
  • Infants and children: Either catheterization or the needle aspiration method is used.
If you cannot produce a urine specimen or are unable to follow instructions for a clean-catch specimen, your health-care provider may obtain a urine specimen by catheterizing you.

  • This means placing a thin tube (catheter) in your urethra to drain urine from your bladder.
  • The catheter usually is removed after the bladder is emptied.
  • The catheter may remain in place if you are very ill or if it is necessary to collect all urine or measure urine output.
Depending on their symptoms, young sexually active women could require a pelvic examination because pelvic infections can have similar symptoms as a urinary tract infection.

Men will most likely require a rectal examination so that the prostate can be checked. A prostate infection (prostatitis) requires a longer course of antibiotics than a urinary tract infection.

In some cases, an imaging test may be indicated to detect any underlying problem in the urinary tract that could cause an infection. This is usually only necessary in repeat infections or special circumstances (unusual bacteria, suspected anatomic abnormalities).

  • An ultrasound examination can evaluate kidney and bladder problems.
  • A fluoroscopic study can show any physical problems that predispose children to urinary tract infections.
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a special series of X-rays that uses a contrast dye to highlight abnormalities in the urinary tract.
  • Cystoscopy involves insertion of a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end through the urethra into the bladder. This allows detection of abnormalities inside the bladder that might contribute to infections.
  • A CT scan gives a very detailed three-dimensional picture of the urinary tract.
Imaging tests are most often needed for the following groups:

  • Children with urinary tract infections, especially boys
  • Up to 50% of infants and 30% of older children with a urinary tract infection have an anatomic abnormality. The child's pediatrician should investigate this possibility.
  • Adults with frequent or recurrent urinary tract infections
  • People who have blood in the urine

What Is the Treatment for Urinary Tract Infections?

Seniors with asymptomatic bacteriuria usually don't require treatment.

For most Urinary Tract Infections, three days to a week of antibiotics taken by mouth are the best treatment. Your doctor will help decide how long treatment should last. Before beginning any treatment, make sure that you discuss with your doctor any allergies you may have, as well as current prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking.

To prevent the infection from returning, it's important to take all of your medication until the end of the prescribed period. Your doctor may also suggest certain medications that relieve pain to help ease the burning that occurs when you urinate.

Very serious infections - such as a severe kidney infection - may require an intravenous drip of antibiotics. Aside from standard antibiotic treatment, children with Urinary Tract Infections may be checked for urinary tract abnormalities.

Treatment for prostatitis often lasts for 4 to 6 weeks. If the infection returns after that, long-term antibiotic therapy may be an option.

It's important that all antibiotics are taken as prescribed. Antibiotics should not be discontinued before the full course of antibiotic treatment is complete. Symptoms may disappear soon after beginning antibiotic treatment. However, if antibiotics are stopped early, the infection may still be present and recur.

In women, recurring Urinary Tract Infections are usually caused by new bacterial infections. If you get 3 or more Urinary Tract Infections within one year (or 2 or more in 6 months), your doctor may recommend preventative medication to be taken daily or after sexual intercourse. During pregnancy, women are routinely screened for bacteria in their urine. Prompt treatment of Urinary Tract Infections is important. Up to a third of untreated cases lead to kidney infections, which can cause premature labour and low birth-weight babies.

An additional urine test may be ordered about a week after completing treatment to be sure the infection is cured.

Tips for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

Although not always backed up by clinical research, some women have found the following suggestions useful in reducing their risk of developing urinary tract infections:

  • While waiting for the effects of the antibiotics to take place, drink plenty of fluids to ease your discomfort, but avoid anything that can irritate the bladder, such as coffee, alcohol, soft drinks with caffeine, citrus juices, and spicy foods, until the infection has cleared.
  • Treat vaginal infections such as thrush or Trichomonas quickly.
  • Avoid using spermicide-containing products, particularly with a diaphragm contraceptive device.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge to urinate, not holding in urine for long periods, as this gives bacteria more opportunity to multiply in the bladder.
  • Wipe yourself from front to back (urethra to anus) after going to the toilet.
  • Urinating before and after sex can flush out any bacteria that may enter the urethra during sexual intercourse.
  • Vitamin C makes the urine acidic and helps to reduce the number of potentially harmful bacteria in the urinary tract system.
  • Cranberry juice is often said to reduce frequency of bladder infections, though it should not be considered an actual treatment. Cranberry supplements are available over-the-counter and many women find they work when an Urinary Tract Infections has occurred; however, a physician's diagnosis is still necessary even if cranberry juice or related herbals reduce pain or symptoms.
For women who have recurrent Urinary Tract Infections, daily intake of cranberry juice or capsules can reduce their incidence. Cranberry juice appears to lower the ability of E. coli to stick to the urinary tract lining cells. Let your doctor know if you are having cranberry juice as it can alter the effectiveness of some antibiotics.

Urinary abnormalities in children

Urine infection in a child needs to be investigated as it may indicate a more serious condition. The most common urinary system condition is vesico-ureteric reflux. This means the bladder valve isn’t working properly and allows urine to flow back to the kidneys, increasing the risk of a kidney infection. 

Vesico-ureteric reflux and the associated infections can scar or permanently damage the kidney, and can also lead to:
  • High blood pressure
  • Toxaemia in pregnancy
  • Kidney failure.
The disorder tends to run in families, so it’s important to screen children as early as possible if a close relative is known to have the problem.

Urinary Tract Infection Prognosis

For people with uncomplicated cystitis or pyelonephritis, antibiotic treatment usually brings complete resolution of the infection.

If not treated promptly, urinary tract infections can cause permanent scarring of the urinary tract.

Pyelonephritis, if not treated promptly, can spread to the bloodstream and cause a very severe infection.

  • Short-term and long-term kidney damage can be a result of pyelonephritis.
  • Despite appropriate intervention, 1%-3%; of people with pyelonephritis die.
  • Death from pyelonephritis is rare in otherwise healthy people.
  • Factors associated with poor outcome or death are old age or general debility, kidney stones, recent hospitalization, diabetes, sickle cell disease, cancer, or chronic kidney disease.