Urinary tract infections
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A urinary tract infection, which often referred to as a UTI, is an infection which occurs in the urinary tract. The urinary tract encompasses the kidneys, ureter, bladder, urethra, and the prostate in males. Urinary tract infections can affect both men and women, adults and children.


The symptoms of a urinary tract vary a little bit and sometimes depend on the severity of the infection. Some patients experience nothing more than a burning sensation during urination. Others also experience fever and chills, pain in the lower back or abdomen, frequent and urgent urination, passing very little urine, feeling as though the bladder doesn’t empty, and unusual urine such as cloudy, dark, bloody, or unusual odor.


Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria. Most often this bacterium enters the body through the vagina or the penis, and then travels through the urethra into the bladder or kidneys. This bacterium can also come from the digestive tract. It is not uncommon for the bacteria which cause urinary tract infections to enter the body regularly. The body typically rids itself of the bacteria before any type of infection sets in, however some patients are more susceptible while other may be susceptible due to a weakened immune system from poor sleep, poor diet, disease, or even fighting the common cold.
Urinary tract infections
Image: Urinary Tract Infections


Women and children, especially little girls, are more at risk for urinary tract infections. Women and girls are placed at higher risk due to a higher rate of the bacterium entering the body. The bacteria can enter the bodies of women and girls more readily than boys or men as the distance that the bacterium travels is shorter. Women who use diaphragms, IUDs, un-lubricated condoms, and spermicidal condoms for birth control choices are at a higher risk for UTIs.


Diagnosing a urinary tract infection is not a difficult process. The physician will do a basic interview with the patient to determine fluid intake, birth control devices, if applicable, and request the patient describe the symptoms. X-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans, if necessary, can reveal any blockage, swelling, or even if kidney stones are the cause of the symptoms described. However, most physicians can determine whether the patient is carrying a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone by the degree of pain the patient presents. Kidney stones typically present with intolerable pain while urinary tract infections are high in discomfort but still manageable. Urine tests can also help determine whether a urinary tract infection is present. A urinalysis can be the fastest determining factor if the physician is set up for testing on the facility site.


While most urinary tract infections are easy to treat and cause few complications, there is always a risk of complications when certain individuals come down with a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections in men can be difficult to treat. Pregnant women and older patients may get very ill from a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections can lead to dehydration and hospitalization. Severe urinary tract infections can lead to the need for intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization. In third world countries where medicine is not readily available, people still die from urinary tract infections.


Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics, a three day treatment for mild infections and a seven day treatment for more serious infections. Medication may be administered to alleviate pain and make it easier to urinate while the infection clears. Drinking ample fluids, particularly apple juice or cranberry juice can help clear up a urinary tract infection as well as help prevent future infections.

For people who experience urinary tract infections regularly or have been diagnosed with UTIs more than once a year, some physicians allow the patient to keep antibiotics on hand to take at the first sign of illness. Drinking fluids that are rich in vitamin C but low in acid, like cranberry juice, can help ward off future infections. Urinating after sexual intercourse can help flush away bacteria that may be passed from partner to partner, and the choice of birth control and sexual protection can impact the frequency of urinary tract infections. Drinking lots of water and urinating when the urge strikes rather than waiting long periods of time is very helpful in preventing infections. After urination, women should use the toilet paper from front to back, especially after a bowel movement, to help eliminate the spreading of bacteria. Wearing cotton underwear and clothing that allows the area to breathe can help avoid future infections. Tight fitting jeans and thong underwear can contribute to urinary tract infections.

Coping with a urinary tract infection requires urinating when needed, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking the full round of antibiotics as prescribed, even when feeling better. Stopping the antibiotics too early will only encourage the infection to return.
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