Urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infection
A urinary tract infection is an infection that begins in your urinary system. Your urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Any part of your urinary system can become infected, but most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra.
Women are at greater risk of developing a urinary tract infection than are men. A urinary tract infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying. However, serious consequences can occur if a urinary tract infection spreads to your kidneys.
Antibiotics are the typical treatment for a urinary tract infection. But you can take steps to reduce your chance of getting a urinary tract infection in the first place.
Female urinary system
Your bladder stores urine produced by your kidneys and expels it through a tube called the urethra. In women, the urethral opening is above the vagina. ...
Male urinary system
Your bladder stores urine produced by your kidneys and expels it through a tube called the urethra. In men, the urethral opening is at the tip of the penis. ...
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they can include:
Types of urinary tract infection
When to see a doctor
The urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. All play a role in removing waste from your body. Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, the defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common urinary tract infections occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
Some people appear to be more likely than are others to develop urinary tract infections. Risk factors include:
When treated promptly and properly, urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. But left untreated, a urinary tract infection can become something more serious than merely a set of uncomfortable symptoms.
Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections (pyelonephritis), which could permanently damage your kidneys. Urinary tract infections may be overlooked or mistaken for other conditions in older adults. Young children also have an increased risk of kidney infections. Pregnant women who have urinary tract infections may have an increased risk of delivering low birth weight or premature infants.
Women who experience three or more urinary tract infections are likely to continue experiencing them.
Preparing for your appointment
Most urinary tract infections are treated by your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, when recurrences are frequent or a kidney infection becomes chronic, you'll likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in urinary disorders (urologist) or kidney disorders (nephrologist) for an evaluation to determine if urologic abnormalities may be causing the infections.
What you can do
Write down questions to ask your doctor. Some basic questions include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment any time you don't understand something.
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose urinary tract infections include:
Cystoscopy allows your doctor to view your lower urinary tract to look for abnormalities, such as a bladder stone. Surgical tools can be passed through the cystoscope to treat certain urinary tract ...
Cystoscopy allows your doctor to view your lower urinary tract to look for abnormalities in your urethra and bladder. Surgical tools can be passed through the cystoscope to treat certain urinary ...
Treatments and drugs
Antibiotics are typically used to treat urinary tract infections. Which drugs are prescribed and for how long depend on your health condition and the type of bacterium found in your urine.
Usually, symptoms clear up within a few days of treatment. But you may need to continue antibiotics for a week or more. Take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated.
For an uncomplicated urinary tract infection that occurs when you're otherwise healthy, your doctor may recommend a shorter course of treatment, such as taking an antibiotic for one to three days. But whether this short course of treatment is adequate to treat your infection depends on your particular symptoms and medical history.
Your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication (analgesic) that numbs your bladder and urethra to relieve burning while urinating. One common side effect of urinary tract analgesics is discolored urine — orange or red.
Your doctor may also recommend taking home urine tests, in which you dip a test stick into a urine sample.
For infections related to sexual activity, your doctor may recommend taking a single dose of antibiotic after sexual intercourse.
If you're postmenopausal, your doctor may recommend vaginal estrogen therapy to minimize your chance of recurrent urinary tract infections.
It's not clear how much cranberry juice you'd need to drink or how often you'd need to drink the juice to have an effect.
If you enjoy drinking cranberry juice and feel it helps you prevent urinary tract infections, there's little harm in continuing to drink it. For most people, drinking cranberry juice is safe — some people report an upset stomach or diarrhea.
However, don't drink cranberry juice if you're taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin. Possible interactions between cranberry juice and warfarin may lead to bleeding.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Urinary tract infections can be painful, but you can take steps to ease your discomfort until antibiotics clear the infection. Follow these tips:
Take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:
Last Updated: 2010-06-26
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