A urinary tract infection, often abbreviated to UTI, is an infection in the bladder, ureters, kidneys, and/or urethra. Any part of the urinary tract can get infected. The infection tends to be more serious the further inside the body it is found. The upper track includes the kidneys and ureters. The lower tract includes the urethra and the bladder. UTIs are more common in adults and particularly women.
Infections typically occur when bacteria get into an individual’s urethra and begin to reproduce. They usually start at the opening of the urethra, where urine exits the body, and then travel up the urethra up into the other parts of the tract. Inadequate wiping after urinating and sexual activity which transfers bacteria from the anus to the urethra are the most common causes of infection. If bacteria reaches the kidneys, it can cause a kidney infection to develop, which can be severe.
When the infection is solely affecting the lower tract symptoms usually include:
When the infection has reached the upper tract it can cause:
Symptoms can also be mild or nonexistent when first presenting.
A physician can identify a UTI by requesting a urine sample. When the physician inspects the sample, the presence of bacteria and white blood cells will indicate if an infection is present. The doctor will then prescribe antibiotics for most patients. For most people, the same bacteria are responsible for most UTIs so that the doctor will use the same type of antibiotic for most infections. In some cases, especially for men, a urine culture will be utilized to identify which type of bacteria is present. This is performed because men do not get UTIs as often and the bacteria could be impervious to the usual medications.
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