Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when germs from the skin or rectum enter the urethra and infect the urinary system. Several parts of the urinary tract can get infected, but the most common type is a bladder infection (cystitis). Another type of UTI is pyelonephritis, an infection of the kidneys. They happen less often than bladder infections but are more dangerous.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Bacterial infections of the urinary tract are common among women. Most of the time, they happen between the ages of 16 and 35, and 10% of women get one yearly. Between 40% and 60% of women will get one at least once. Most people get a second infection within a year, and almost half get it within six months. Urinary tract infections happen to women at least four times more often than men due to their shorter urethra, so bacteria have faster access.

Other reasons that can make a person more likely to get a UTI: 

  • Previous UTI; 
  • Sexual activity; 
  • Changes in vaginal flora, for example, these changes in bacteria can be caused by menopause or the use of spermicides; 
  • Pregnancy; 
  • Age (older adults and young children are more likely to get UTIs); 
  • Urinary tract structural disorders, such as enlarged prostate; and 
  • Poor hygiene in potty-training kids.

Some of the signs of a urinary tract infection are:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Urge to urinate even though the bladder is empty
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain or tightness in the groin or lower stomach
  • Fever
  • Back pain in your lower back or on the side of your back
  • Nausea or vomiting

Urinary tract infections are diagnosed using the following tests:

  • Urinalysis checks for red blood cells, white blood cells, and pathogens. High counts of white and red blood cells in urine can indicate infection.
  • Urine culture identifies microorganisms in your urine. This test determines the type of antibiotic to be prescribed.

The doctor may perform the following diagnostic procedures to check for disease or injury in the urinary system if the infection does not respond to therapy or if there are recurrent infections.

  • Ultrasound to check the internal structures such as the kidney, bladder
  • Cystoscopy employs a lens and light source (cystoscope) to view the bladder through the urethra

Treatment

Doctors will choose the most appropriate antibiotics that kill the bacteria causing the infection. Antibiotics include:

  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Sulfonamides (sulfa medicines) (sulfa drugs)
  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalosporins
  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole
  • Doxycycline
  • Quinolones (such as ciprofloxacin)

Children with UTI can take liquid paracetamol to improve pain symptoms. Adults should take up to four regular doses of paracetamol per day for pain and fever relief; this is because NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin are not suggested for people with a UTI. Other steps to take are the following:

  • Delay sex until well rested
  • Drinking enough fluids to urinate frequently over the day
  • For women, wiping front-to-back after defecation. 
  • Good hygiene during menstruation
  • Changing pads and tampons often
  • Avoid vaginal deodorants

 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Urinary Tract Infection. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html

 

Cleveland Clinic (2022). Urinary Tract Infections. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9135-urinary-tract-infections

 

National Health Services (2022). Urinary tract infections (UTIs). Retrieved December 22, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/

Last Updated: February 21, 2024