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What Are Urinary Tract Infections?

Urinary tract infections are very common in people of both sexes and are usually caused by bacteria (germs).

The urinary tract consists of:

  • Tthe kidneys, which produce urine.
  • The ureters. There are two, one on each side of the body. They are tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder.
  • The urinary bladder, which collects urine.
  • The urethra, a tube through which urine is eliminated from the human body.

Urinary tract infections are divided into upper and lower urinary tract infections. Upper urinary tract infections occur when the kidneys and ureters are affected and they can lead to serious damage of the kidneys.

Lower urinary tract infections are more common than upper urinary tract infections. The signs and symptoms are milder and they recovery is usually without problems. Lower urinary tract infections are very common in women and they often recur.

People are at a greater risk of getting a UTI are:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with malformations of the urinary tract
  • People who had a UTI before
  • People who suffer from diabetes
  • People who have sexual intercourse
  • People who use spermicides, condoms or diaphragms.

Signs And Symptoms Of A UTI

Signs and symptoms of urinary tract infections depend whether it is an upper or lower urinary tract infection.

Lower urinary tract infections are characterized by:

  • Frequent urination
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Painful urination
  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Strong odor
  • Pelvic or rectal pain

Upper urinary tract infections are characterized by:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain and tenderness in the upper back side.

How are UTIs diagnosed?

The diagnosis of urinary tract infections is very simple and done through urine samples and urine cultures. A UTI diagnosis can be made when there is a higher presence of bacteria (more than 100.000). Ultrasounds of the urinary bladder and kidneys, cystoscopy and intravenous pyelogram are used in severe cases or in recurrent urinary tract infections to diagnose the cause and any complications or damages to the urinary tract.

How Are UTIs Treated?

Treatment of urinary tract infections usually requires the use of antibiotics for at least 7 days. For lower urinary tract infections, antibiotics are administrated orally, while upper urinary tract infections may require hospitalization and intravenous administration of antibiotics.

Good personal hygiene, urinating immediately after sexual intercourse, wearing comfortable and cotton underwear and consuming a lot of water daily will help prevent or ease a urinary tract infection.

Pregnant women should be very careful and treat urinary tract infections correctly and on time, as they can lead to premature childbirth.

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