Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)– A Primer

Urinary tract infections are one of mankind and womankind’s most common maladies. Most of these infections are a source of irritation and bother but if left untreated can cause significant kidney damage. This blog will discuss this common condition and what can be done to prevent and treat common UTIs

A UTI is when bacteria gets into your urine and travels up to your bladder. UTIs cause more than 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year. About 40% of women and 12% of men will have symptoms of at least one UTI during their lifetime.

The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the waste products of your body. Urine is made in the kidneys and travels down the ureters to the bladder. The bladder stores the urine until it is emptied through the urethra, a tube that connects the bladder to the skin, when you urinate. The opening of the urethra is at the end of the penis in a male and in front of the vagina in a female.
The kidneys are a pair of fist-sized organs in the back that filter liquid waste from the blood and remove it from the body in the form of urine. Kidneys balance the levels of many chemicals in the body (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and others) and check the blood’s acidity. Certain hormones are also made in the kidneys. These hormones help control blood pressure, boost red blood cell production and help make strong bones. The ureters are two tubes that carry the urine down to the bladder.

Normal urine has no bacteria in it, and the one-way flow helps prevent infections. Still, bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel up into the bladder.

Signs of UTI
When you have a UTI, the lining of the bladder and urethra become red and irritated just as your throat does when you have a cold. The irritation can cause pain in your belly and pelvic area and may make you feel like urinating more often. You may even try to urinate but only get a few drops and/or feel some burning as your urine comes out. At times, you may lose control and wet yourself. You may also find that your urine smells bad or is cloudy.
Kidney infections often cause fevers and back pain. These infections need to be treated at once because a kidney infection can quickly spread into the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening health issue.

Causes of UTI
Large numbers of bacteria live in the rectal area and also on your skin. Bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. They may even travel up to the kidney. But no matter how far it goes, bacteria in the urinary tract can cause problems.
Just as some people are more prone to colds, some people are more prone to UTIs. Men are less likely to get a UTI.
Some factors that can add to your chances of getting a UTI are:
Body Factors
Women who have gone through menopause have a change in the lining of the vagina and lose the protection of estrogen that lowers the chance of getting a UTI. Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs and have urinary tracts that make it easier for bacteria to cling to them. Sexual intercourse can also affect how often you get UTIs.
Birth Control
Women who use diaphragms have also been found to have a higher risk when compared to those who use other forms of birth control. Using condoms with spermicidal foam is also known to be linked to greater risk getting of UTIs in women. Women are more prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
Abnormal Anatomy
You are more likely to get a UTI if your urinary tract has an abnormality or has recently had a device (such as a tube to drain fluid from the body) placed in it. If you are not able to urinate normally because of some type of block, you will also have a higher chance of a UTI.
Anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract may also lead to UTIs. These abnormalities are often found in children at an early age but can still be found in adults. There may be structural abnormalities, such as outpouchings called diverticula, that harbor bacteria in the bladder or urethra or even blockages, such as an enlarged bladder, that keep the body from draining all the urine from the bladder.
Immune System
Issues such as diabetes (high blood sugar) also put people at higher risk for UTIs because the body is not able to fight off germs as well.
Can UTIs be Prevented?
There are steps women can take to avoid UTIs:
1 Urinating after sex may lower the risk of UTI by flushing out bacteria that may have gotten into the urinary tract during intercourse.
2 Certain forms of birth control, such as spermicidal foam and diaphragms, are known to increase the risk of UTIs in women. Check with your health care provider about other types of birth control.
3 Drink plenty of fluids to keep well hydrated.
4 Don’t put off urinating when you need to and don’t rush to finish. Holding in urine and not draining your bladder fully can increase your risk of UTIs.
Wipe from front to back to keep bacteria around the anus from getting into the vagina or urethra.

Bottom Line: UTIs are a common condition that affects millions of men and women. this blog will hopefully provide you suggestions for preventing UTIs. For more informatiion call your doctor.

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