What Causes Urinary Tract Infections?

Urinary tract infections (or UTIs) develop when germs enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the opening that allows urine to exit the body. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria, but other pathogens like fungi and parasites can also cause UTIs. Usually, the body’s immune system is able to fight off small populations of invading pathogens; but in some cases, it can be overwhelmed and an infection can occur. UTIs can affect any portion of the urinary tract, and without treatment, they can spread and cause kidney damage. UTIs are more common among women and among people with diabetes.

What Are The Symptoms of a UTI?

The most frequent symptoms of UTIs include an increased urgency to urinate and a need to urinate more frequently, as well as an inability to completely empty the bladder. Urine may also appear pink or cloudy or have a foul odor, and pain and burning sensations can also occur when urinating. Patients with more advanced infections may have fever, chills, nausea or low back pain

How Are UTIs Diagnosed and Treated?

UTIs are diagnosed with a urine sample evaluation (or urinalysis) and sometimes with blood tests. Diagnostic imaging may also be ordered in some cases, especially if UTIs are chronic or if kidney damage is suspected. Once diagnosed, most urinary tract infections can be treated with medication to destroy the germs causing the infection. It’s very important to take the entire course of medication, even once symptoms improve, to ensure all the germs are destroyed. Chronic or recurrent UTIs may require more aggressive treatment, especially if they’re occurring as a result of an anatomical problem.

What Can I Do to Avoid a Urinary Tract Infection?

The best ways to avoid a UTI are to drink plenty of water throughout the day, wipe from front to back after urinating and schedule an office visit at the first sign of symptoms to prevent a developing infection from becoming worse. Patients with kidney problems should discuss their water intake with their doctor to avoid overburdening their kidneys.