The term urinary tract infection (UTI) is used to describe an infection of the urinary system; this is caused when bacteria, that’s often present in other parts of the body, finds its way into the bladder. This often happens when bacteria from the anus gets into the urethra and travels up to the bladder, although many other kinds of bacteria can cause a urinary tract infection if they find their way into the bladder. The urethra is shorter in women than it is in men; therefore women are more likely to suffer from a urinary tract infection. You are also more likely to get a urinary tract infection if you are diabetic or are pregnant.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
. Passing urine more often than normal
. Felling the need to pass urine but being unable to do so
. Experiencing a burning sensation when passing urine
. Cloudy, often foul smelling urine
. Blood in urine
If you have any of these symptoms you should see your doctor, who will ask you to provide a sample of urine to be tested for bacteria. Your doctor may use a dipstick to see if bacteria is present in the sample and if bacteria is detected you will be prescribed an antibiotic. Your sample will usually also be sent off to a laboratory for analysis to determine what type of bacteria is present and what antibiotic should be used to treat the infection.
Usually a urinary tract infection is treated with a five to seven day course of antibiotics; these are usually prescribed by your doctor after he has done the dipstick test. Sometimes it is necessary for your antibiotic to be changed if the lab results identify that a different antibiotic than the one prescribed would be more effective against the bacteria present in the sample they tested.
As urinary tract infections are common in women, once a urinary tract infection has been diagnosed and antibiotics prescribed, there is usually no further investigation for female patients unless there is a problem with recurring infection. However in men and children there may be an investigation into the cause of the infection to rule out any serious medical problem, this can sometimes include an ultrasound of the bladder and kidneys.
There are things that you can do to help prevent urinary tract infections, drinking plenty of water helps to flush out the kidneys and bladder and so is helpful in flushing any bacteria away before an infection can take hold. Also ensuring that bacteria are not transferred from the anus to the urethra, this is especially important in women as the urethra is shorter in women than in men.
Urinary tract infections are usually easy to clear up with antibiotics, although sometimes if there is a medical cause for recurring infection surgery to correct the problem may be necessary. Although painful urinary tract infections are nothing to worry too much about as if treated promptly they usually clear up within a week with no lasting effects.