A urinary tract infection (UTI) affects the organs of the urinary tract. A UTI usually infects the urethra and the bladder, which is an infection known as cystitis, but it can sometimes develop in the kidneys as a more serious infection known as pyelonephritis. Bacteria are usually the cause of UTIs.
Urinary tract infections can affect anyone, but they are more common among women than men. There are a variety of things that can cause a UTI, and some people are more likely to get them than others. Women are more susceptible to UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men and bacteria from the rectum can reach the bladder easier.
Women who use diaphragms or have engaged in intercourse with a partner who used a condom with spermicide may be more likely to get them. People with diabetes and women who have gone through menopause also run a higher risk. Someone who recently had a catheter in the urinary tract for medical reasons has a greater risk of getting a UTI. And some have physical abnormalities in the urinary tract that lead to the infections.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
The most common symptoms of a UTI are a frequent urge to urinate and a painful, burning sensation while urinating in young women. Older men and women may have abdominal pain and feel tired and weak. The urine may also be dark, cloudy, foul smelling or bloody. If these symptoms are accompanied by fever, back pain and nausea and vomiting, it may be a sign of a kidney infection.
The majority of UTIs are easy to treat. Most are caused by bacteria, so a course of antibiotics is the usual method for ending the illness. Drinking plenty of fluids and urinating frequently also can speed things along. If the infection is more serious and involves the kidneys, hospitalization or a longer course of antibiotics may be needed.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Urology Care Foundation
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