Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common condition which develops when bacteria enters the urinary tract and causes inflammation. The organs affected include the kidneys, bladder, ureters (connecting the kidneys and the bladder) and the urethra.
What causes it?
It is thought that a UTI can develop as a result of bacteria entering the tract through the urethra. The infection can be a mild form of cystitis, affecting the bladder and urethra (this is called a Lower UTI) or, more seriously, the kidneys (this is called Upper UTI).
It is 50 times more likely to occur in women than in men, according to Net Doctor, although men become more at risk over the age of 60.
There are a number of factors that make a UTI more likely, Net Doctor points out:
- enlarged prostate
- spina bifida
- multiple sclerosis
- horseshoe kidney
- obstruction by kidney stones or bladder stones
- steroid therapy
What are the symptoms?
There is a difference between the symptoms of Upper and Lower UTI, according to the NHS.
Lower UTI sufferers usually experience pain or discomfort when passing urine, which may have a cloudy appearance, and a need to urinate more frequently and urgently. Sometimes patients find blood in the urine, report back pain and a general sense of feeling unwell.
Upper UTI can lead to serious complications and the symptoms are often more severe. The sufferer can develop a fever, accompanied by shivering, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
How is it diagnosed?
When it comes to Lower UTI, the symptoms often speak for themselves. However, there are a number of circumstances where testing is recommended, the NHS points out:
- When the patient is a man
- When there is blood in the urine
- When the patient suffers from other conditions and has a weakened immune system which may contribute to the development of complications
- When the woman is pregnant
- When it is suspected that the sufferer could have Upper UTI, which is much more likely to lead to complications
There are multiple ways of testing, the most popular of which is through a urine sample. A doctor may also inject a dye into the urinary tract and use an X-ray machine to look at how it moves, identifying any possible problems.
Cystoscopy is another test designed to diagnose UTI. This involves the insertion of a small, flexible camera into the urethra and provides a clear picture of what is going on in the bladder. This is aided by an anaesthetic, which comes in jelly form.
How is it treated?
Lower UTI can usually be treated at home with antibiotics and in mild cases even goes away on its own. Most importantly, the sufferer needs to drink plenty of fluids in order to flush out the bacteria. Many women say that drinking cranberry juice helps with the prevention and even treatment of milder UTIs such as interstitial cystitis.
If complications develop or the patient suffers from advanced Upper UTI, there is sometimes a need for hospital treatment.
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