What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection also known as a UTI is a general term which refers to an infectious process which involves any part of the urinary tract, and can cause local inflammation and pain over the affected area. When the urinary tract infection involves the kidney, it is called pyelonephritis. When the UTI involves the bladder, it is termed cystitis.


What are the symptoms of a UTI?

A urinary tract infection causes pain over the region which it is located. Pyelonephritis usually causes pain over the flank, on the side of the affected kidney. Pyelonephritis also causes fever spikes, which may continue for several days, even after the start of antibiotics. Pyelonephritis is a serious infection, and in very rare cases may even cause death if not treated appropriately. This serious infection may cause serious kidney damage, and patients with frequent episodes of pyelonephritis, may develop renal failure.

A UTI involving the bladder, also known as cystitis, generally presents as a pain over the pubic and Suprapubic region (the area just above the pubic bone). It is less likely to cause fevers (as compared to pyelonephritis). Some patients report dysuria (burning with urination), and a constant feeling of urgency (need to urinate) even when the bladder is empty. This is a result of the inflammation and irritation caused by the infection.

What are causes of a UTI?

Urinary tract infections affect women more than men, partly due to the shorter length of the urethra in women, and have several causes. Most are due to bacterial infections, although some may be due to fungal infections. In the neonatal age group, it has been reported that uncircumcised boys have a higher proportion of urinary tract infection than circumcised boys. While young girls may get a couple of infections until adulthood, and not require further workup, urinary tract infection in young boys should always be taken seriously. Causes may be vesicoureteral reflux (back flow of urine from the bladder to the kidney) or ureteropelvic junction obstruction (a tightening of the connection between the kidney and the ureter).

In women, sexual activity may cause a UTI. A urinary tract infection during pregnancy is a serious problem, as it may cause premature contractions, and even loss of pregnancy. Inability to fully empty the bladder is another cause of urinary tract infections, which generally affects men, as they get older, due to an enlarged prostate. Please click here to read about BPH. Occasionally, kidney stones may also cause an infection if the stone is obstructing the flow of urine.

How is a UTI diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis of a urinary tract infection is generally done with a urinalysis and urine culture. Treatment is predicated on drinking plenty of fluids, and the use of appropriate antibiotics. At times, there is an underlying cause for the infection, such as a urinary stone with obstruction, ureteropelvic junction obstruction, vesicoureteral reflux, or urinary retention. With consideration of all issues involved, the treatment of these underlying conditions may prevent further infections. These issues should be discussed with your urologist.

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