What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a term describing an infection involving any of the organs within the urinary tract system.
It may arise when the system fails to eject bacteria or viruses from the bladder. Once inside the urinary tract, a harmful substance can travel to the different organs and cause an infection.
This type of ailment may affect both genders, although, it is more prevalent among women because the urethra is more exposed than that of men. (1)
Four organs are in the urinary tract; the kidneys, urethra, ureters and bladder. These work in unison to produce and expel urine.
The kidneys produce urine after filtering waste materials out of the blood. Fluids will then travel through a tube called the ureter to the bladder. Once full, it will empty its content through a small opening located on the genital (urethra).
An infection of the urinary tract can include one or several of these organs. Any bug or ailment affecting this system can cause impairments of urine production and storage.
Anyone is at risk. However, those who have diabetes, kidney stones or trouble urinating are more susceptible. Those with conditions related to old age which might interfere with personal care, such as Alzheimer disease, also have increased chances. (2)
Symptoms may differ depending on where the infection takes place. If it has spread to the kidneys, indicators might be more severe, and some might require a hospital stay.
Symptoms may include:
Pain while Urinating
Pain felt while urinating is a prevalent symptom of a UTI.
The pain may range in severity. Some of those affected might feel it as slight discomfort, while for others it might be perceived as a stinging pain.
The affected might observe it from the urethra, or it might be noticed from deeper places such as the bladder or pubic bone.
When and where the pain is felt can indicate the approximate location of the infection. If the affected encounters pain while urinating, it might mean an infection in the lower organs. On the contrary, if it was felt after urination, it might be a sign of a problem within the bladder. (3)
Everyone has different urination patterns. They depend on how much a person drinks, personality traits as well as capacity of the bladder.
Those affected by a UTI might feel a stronger urge to urinate more often, even after having just done so. This is usually an indicator of inflammation.
Under normal circumstances, the sensors inside the bladder are touched when capacity is reached, signaling an urge to urinate. However, during infection, the inflammatory responses might cause hypersensitivity of the bladder which could induce frequent urination. (4)
For the affected, it might also feel as though a more substantial amount of urine is produced, when in fact, the quantity remains the same. This may contribute to frequent runs to the bathroom with little to no relief.
When infection arises in the urinary tract, some might experience pressure or dull pain in the lower abdomen.
The exact cause of this pressure or pain may be difficult to determine and not everyone with a UTI might encounter this. (5)
Change in Urine Odor
A change in the odor of urine might imply a UTI, although some experts advise that diagnosis should not be based solely on smell. (6)
The odor of urine can change due to various causes, such as dehydration, diet and fluid intake.
Nevertheless it is often reported, mainly from parents, that their child’s urine has a foul or stronger smell than usual prior to the diagnosis of a UTI. (7)
Those affected by a UTI can expect to encounter cloudy urine which may appear milky. Doctors suggest that the infection may provoke this.
However, some argue against applying this as a symptom of a UTI, as it can be aseptic (disease-free) and might be caused by high levels of protein. Clear urine can possibly carry traits of infection. (8)
For women, some may encounter spots of blood while urinating; this does not necessarily indicate a serious issue. However, consulting a physician could help rule out causes for concern.
Tiredness or fatigue are common symptoms of any infection.
The causes may differ, although during a UTI it could be a result of frequent urination taking its toll. It also might be a direct result of the infection and bodily responses.
Fatigue or tiredness may be an indicator the infection has spread to the kidneys. (9)
Fever is a strong indicator of infections.
It is a part of the body’s immunity shield which triggers when harmful materials enter a tissue or organ.
A moderate fever may be a symptom of a bladder infection, whereas a high temperature of more than 101 degrees fahrenheit (38.3 celsius) is typically a red flag the bacteria has spread. (10)
A UTI can be classified as complicated or uncomplicated. For many people, this condition will not necessarily result in severe outcomes. However, those with an underlying disease such as diabetes may be at risk for serious kidney damage. (11)
The growth of the bacteria causing a UTI can be seen in six phases. (12)
In stage one, a small element called escherichia coli will find its way from the urethra to the bladder and multiply. This substance causes uropathy, meaning it will trigger urinary impairments.
The bacteria has now reproduced and its adherents will begin to invade the cells present in the bladder.
Now that the germ is inside, some of its foreign bodies are shuttled back out, while some get pushed into another compartment where they can continue their invasion.
The bacteria has now disrupted the chamber, which allows it to multiply once again. This time, however, they will form a different exterior enabling them to withstand the body’s defenses.
The body is reacting to the infection which has triggered an “exfoliation” response. This is where the invading bacteria will be cleaned out of the bladder cells.
Some of the harmful bacteria were strong enough to withstand the cleanse. These will likely prove hard to get rid off, even with antibiotics, and may put the patient’s kidneys in a critical state.
Doctors will typically use different lab tests to diagnose a UTI. These may include: a dipstick test or a urinalysis. They allow the doctor to check for the characteristics of infection in the urine. (13)
Treatment of a UTI generally revolves around a single drug. However, if the condition is severe and the patient is unable to administer the medication, a doctor might prescribe a hospital stay.
To determine treatment, doctors might do a urine culture test; this will show which bacteria has invaded the bladder and can help to decide the best course of medicine.
The primary treatment of a UTI is antibiotic. This drug will help eliminate the bacteria causing the infection. (14)
The dose prescribed will be based on the severity. Some may need to take this for a few days, while others might require more time. However, it is essential to continue the treatment to term even if symptoms subside and you feel better. Stopping before the course is finished may disrupt its effect.
In severe cases, generally for the elderly or those who are unable to take medication, a hospital stay will be required. Antibiotics along with fluids to prevent dehydration will be administered through an intravenous tube. (15)
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)? UTI is the term used to define infection affecting any of the organs within the urinary tract system.
What are the signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI)? Symptoms may depend on which organ is affected. If it’s the lower organs such as the urethra or bladder, signs can include pain while urinating and urgency. If the infection has invaded the kidneys, indicators might be high fever and pain after urinating.
How do you develop a urinary tract infection (UTI)? A UTI can develop after bacteria has found its way into the urethra and bladder. Women are at higher risk since these organs are closer together. Bacteria from the anus has easy excess to the vaginal opening. However, those who suffer from bowel incontinence or have had surgery in the urinary tract may also present a higher risk. (16)
How are you diagnosed for a urinary tract infection (UTI)? Doctors can diagnose a UTI with different urine tests which show the presence of harmful bacteria and germs. Some may reveal the type of bacteria so physicians can assess the right treatment. Various x-rays such as CT and kidney scans or ultrasound might also be requested to rule out underlying conditions. (17)
What is the best treatment of a urinary tract infection (UTI)? The primary treatment is antibiotics. These will kill the bacteria and minimize symptoms.
What are the long term complications of a urinary tract infection (UTI)? If treatment is started early, there should be no complications. However, if left untreated, it could spread to the kidneys and cause various complications. This includes sepsis or urosepsis which is a life threatening response to an infection from the body. (18)
Is a urinary tract infection (UTI) considered a disability? No, a urinary tract infection is not a disability.
Is there any cure for a urinary tract infection (UTI)? Treatment can help eliminate the bacteria, but the dose must be completed in order to be successful.
Is a urinary tract infection (UTI) life threatening? Yes if it’s left untreated the body may enter a septic shock where the affected will be in a critical state. For people in a specific high-risk group, this condition can be fatal if it spreads to the kidneys. (19)
A urinary tract infection usually occurs when bacteria has invaded the urinary tract system which involves four organs from the urethra to the kidneys.
A UTI is a common occurrence and in most cases won’t generate extensive damage. It is easily treated with antibiotics.
However, if it remains untreated and spreads to the kidneys, it could lead to life threatening complications. Fortunately, most cases are discovered and treated before reaching this point.