What Is The Urinary Tract
The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the bodyâs liquid waste products. The urinary tract includes the following parts:
- Kidneys: These small organs are located on back of your body, just above the hips. They are the filters of your body removing waste and water from your blood. This waste becomes urine.
- Ureters: The ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to your bladder.
- Bladder: A sac-like container, the bladder stores your urine before it leaves the body.
- Urethra: This tube carries the urine from your bladder to the outside of the body.
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How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose A Bladder Infection
A urinalysis is the initial evaluation for a bladder infection. In most cases, health care professionals use a voided urine specimen, however, there is a risk of contamination by skin bacteria. A clean-catch voided urine specimen involves voiding and collecting a urine sample mid-stream as opposed to at the very start or end of voiding. A catheterized urine sample is more accurate but has the risk of introducing bacteria into the bladder and may be uncomfortable in children. In infants, medical professionals can perform a suprapubic aspiration.
The definitive test to determine if there is a bladder infection is the urine culture. The urine culture identifies the number and type of bacteria in the urine as well as determines the sensitivity of the bacteria to several different antibiotics. The usual cutoff for a urinary tract infection is the presence of greater than 100,000 bacteria, however, in the presence of symptoms, a positive leukocyte esterase or > 10 white blood cells on urinalysis, even fewer bacteria in the urine is supportive of a urinary tract infection.
Physicians sometimes recommend prophylactic antibiotics for individuals who develop frequent symptomatic UTIs. Similarly, women who develop UTIs related to sexual activity may take a single dose of antibiotic around the time of intercourse.
When To Get Medical Advice
Its a good idea to see your GP if you think you might have a UTI, particularly if:
- you have symptoms of an upper UTI
- the symptoms are severe or getting worse
- the symptoms havent started to improve after a few days
- you get UTIs frequently
Your GP can rule out other possible causes of your symptoms by testing a sample of your urine and can prescribe antibiotics if you do have an infection.
Antibiotics are usually recommended because untreated UTIs can potentially cause serious problems if theyre allowed to spread.
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When Should I See My Doctor
If you have any symptoms associated with a UTI or a pre-existing health condition, dont delay visiting your doctor for treatment.
UTIs can be more dangerous if youre pregnant, due to an increased risk of kidney involvement. See your doctor if you are pregnant and you think you have a UTI, even if your symptoms are mild.
Children with UTI symptoms should see a doctor, to check for a more serious underlying condition.
Bladder infections may spread to your kidneys . This is a serious infection and needs immediate treatment with antibiotics. Signs and symptoms of kidney infection include fever, back pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor.
Check If It’s Cystitis
- pain, burning or stinging when you pee
- needing to pee more often and urgently than usual
- pee that’s dark, cloudy or strong smelling
- pain low down in your tummy
Symptoms in young children may also include:
- a high temperature they feel hotter than usual if you touch their neck, back or tummy
- wetting themselves
- reduced appetite and being sick
- weakness and irritability
In older, frail people with cognitive impairment and people with a urinary catheter, symptoms may also include:
- changes in behaviour, such as acting confused or agitated
- wetting themselves more than usual
- shivering or shaking
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Causes Of Bladder Infection
When the bacteria attack the urinary tract, it results in a bladder infection. Women get affected by a bladder infection also due to the short length of their urethra. In men, it is mostly caused due to sexual intercourse with an infected female. The use of contraceptive diaphragms or spermicidal agents is also a reason for bladder infection. Other causes are:
- A feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen.
How Common Are Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are very common, occurring in 1 out of 5 women sometime in their lifetime. Though UTIs are common in women, they can also happen to men, older adults and children. One to 2% of children develop urinary tract infections. Each year, 8 million to 10 million visits to doctors are for urinary tract infections.
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Am I At Risk Of A Uti
While UTIs can happen to anyone, they are more common in females who are sexually active or menopausal, or have health conditions such as diabetes or urinary incontinence. Females who use spermicides or diaphragms as contraception are also at increased risk of UTIs, and may benefit from other contraceptive options if they get recurrent UTIs.
Some people at greater risk of developing urinary tract infections:
- Females nearly 1 in 3 females will have a UTI that needs treatment before the age of 24.
- Males with prostate problems an enlarged prostate gland can cause the bladder to only partially empty, raising the risk of infection.
- Older people some medications and problems with incontinence mean that older people are more likely to get a UTI.
- People with urinary catheters people who are critically ill and people who cant empty their bladder are at a greater risk of infection.
- People with diabetes changes to the immune system make people with diabetes more vulnerable to infection.
- Infants babies in nappies commonly get UTIs, in particular, infants born with physical problems of the urinary system are at greater risk.
Bladder Infection Diagnosis And Medical Treatment
Diagnosing a UTI usually involves a simple urine test. Your doctor or nurse will check your urine for signs of bacteria. However, if your urine tests clear of bacteria, then your healthcare provider will move on to other diagnostic tests that may include lab work or imaging studies.
Since the vast majority of bladder infections are caused by bacteria, youll likely receive a prescription antibiotic to clear the bacteria from your urinary tract. These drugs are precisely calibrated to work over a defined time frame, so its important you take all of the medication exactly as prescribedeven if your symptoms resolve. If you dont take all the medicine, you run the risk of leaving pathogenic bacteria in your system. You might relieve your symptoms without actually destroying all the bacteria. In that case, your symptoms will return quickly.
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About Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them.
Anyone can get them, but theyre particularly common in women. Some women experience them regularly .
UTIs can be painful and uncomfortable, but usually pass within a few days and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
This page is about UTIs in adults. There is a separate article about UTIs in children.
This page covers:
Urgent Advice: Ask For An Urgent Gp Appointment Or Get Help From Nhs 111 If:
You think you, your child or someone you care for may have a urinary tract infection and:
- a very high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
- a very low temperature below 36C
- are confused, drowsy or have difficulty speaking
- have not been for a pee all day
- have pain in the lower tummy or in the back, just under the ribs
- can see blood in their pee
These symptoms could mean you have a kidney infection, which can be serious if it’s not treated as it could cause .
You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.
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Other Ways To Prevent Recurring Utis
If you have more than 3 UTIs in 1 year, or 2 UTIs in 6 months, there are other things that may help prevent UTIs.
There is some evidence that women under 65 years old who keep getting UTIs may find it helpful to take:
- a supplement called D-mannose this is not recommended for pregnant women
- cranberry products, such as juice or tablets
Speak to your doctor before taking any of these during pregnancy.
Be aware that D-mannose and cranberry products can contain a lot of sugar.
Page last reviewed: 18 November 2020 Next review due: 18 November 2023
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Causes Of Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs are usually caused by bacteria from poo entering the urinary tract.
The bacteria enter through the tube that carries pee out of the body .
Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.
Things that increase the risk of bacteria getting into the bladder include:
do not use scented soap
do not hold your pee in if you feel the urge to go
do not rush when going for a pee try to fully empty your bladder
do not wear tight, synthetic underwear, such as nylon
do not drink lots of alcoholic drinks, as they may irritate your bladder
do not have lots of sugary food or drinks, as they may encourage bacteria to grow
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You Dont Drink Enough Water
Guzzling H2O will make you go pretty often. And thats a good thing. When you do this, the bacteria gets flushed out before they have a chance to grab hold, Minkin says.
Consider that your cue to make a giant water bottle your BFF. Hooton TM, et al. . Effect of increased daily water intake in premenopausal women with recurrent urinary tract infections: A randomized clinical trial. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4204
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How Can I Get Free Urine Flow
Go with the Flow
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How Are Urinary Tract Infections Treated
You will need to treat a urinary tract infection. Antibiotics are medicines that kill bacteria and fight an infection. Antibiotics are typically used to treat urinary tract infections. Your healthcare provider will pick a drug that best treats the particular bacteria thats causing your infection. Some commonly used antibiotics can include:
Its very important that you follow your healthcare providers directions for taking the medicine. Dont stop taking the antibiotic because your symptoms go away and you start feeling better. If the infection is not treated completely with the full course of antibiotics, it can return.
If you have a history of frequent urinary tract infections, you may be given a prescription for antibiotics that you would take at the first onset of symptoms. Other patients may be given antibiotics to take every day, every other day, or after sexual intercourse to prevent the infection. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment option for you if you have a history of frequent UTIs.
How Is This Condition Diagnosed
If you think you have a bladder infection you should talk with your healthcare provider. To help diagnose a bladder inflammation , you will typically be asked for a urine sample. Your urine will be collected in a sterile cup in a restroom at your providers office. You may want to avoid peeing right before your appointment so that youll be able to provide a sample during your office visit. Your provider will most likely do two tests on your urine: a urinalysis and a urine culture.
- Urinalysis: This test involves checking the appearance, concentration and content of urine.
- Urine culture: This test determines the type of bacteria causing the infection and to which antibiotics the bacteria is sensitive.
Your healthcare provider may also order additional testing if you continue to get bladder infections including an imaging test to look at your kidneys and a cystoscopy, which uses a special scope to look inside the bladder.
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Can Urinary Tract Infections Be Prevented Or Avoided
There are many lifestyle choices that can help you prevent UTIs. These are some of the things you can do to protect yourself from them:
- Drink plenty of water to flush out bacteria. For some people, drinking cranberry juice may also help prevent urinary tract infections. However, if youre taking warfarin, check with your doctor before using cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections. Your doctor may need to adjust your warfarin dose or you may need to have more frequent blood tests.
- Dont hold your urine. Urinate when you feel like you need to. Some children dont go to the bathroom often enough. If your child does this, teach him or her to go to the bathroom several times each day.
- Wipe from front to back after bowel movements. Teach your child to wipe correctly.
- Urinate after having sex to help wash away bacteria.
- Use enough lubrication during sex. Try using a small amount of lubricant before sex if youre a little dry.
- If you get urinary tract infections often, you may want to avoid using a diaphragm as a birth control method. Ask your doctor about other birth control choices.
- Avoid taking or giving your child bubble baths.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing , and dress your child in loose-fitting clothing.
- If you are uncircumcised, wash the foreskin regularly. If you have an uncircumcised boy, teach him how to wash his foreskin.
Things You Can Try Yourself
If you have mild symptoms of cystitis, it can help to:
- take paracetamol up to 4 times a day to reduce pain
- give children liquid paracetamol follow the instructions on the bottle
- drink plenty of water
- avoid drinks that may irritate your bladder, like fruit juices, coffee and alcohol
Some people take cystitis sachets or cranberry drinks and products every day to prevent cystitis from happening, which might help. However, theres no evidence they help ease symptoms or treat cystitis if the infection has already started.
What Is The Prognosis For A Person With A Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections typically respond very well to treatment. A UTI can be uncomfortable before you start treatment, but once your healthcare provider identifies the type of bacteria and prescribes the right antibiotic medication, your symptoms should improve quickly. Its important to keep taking your medication for the entire amount of time your healthcare provider prescribed. If you have frequent UTIs or if your symptoms arent improving, your provider may test to see if its an antibiotic-resistant infection. These are more complicated infections to treat and may require intravenous antibiotics or alternative treatments.
What Are The Treatment Options
Treating a thickened bladder wall means treating the underlying condition that caused the change in the wall.
For example, UTI treatment usually involves a course of antibiotic therapy. To prevent UTIs, practice good hygiene. Wipe front to back to reduce the risk of germs from the rectum reaching the urethra.
Surgery can remove noncancerous tumors that are causing you symptoms. The tumors usually wont recur.
Cancerous growths can sometimes be removed with surgery, too. Additional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, may also be necessary.
Prostate treatment is a somewhat controversial subject. Prostate surgery can sometimes lead to incontinence or erectile dysfunction. If prostate symptoms are minor, your doctor may recommend a watch-and-wait approach to monitor your prostate regularly. Prostate cancer is often a slow-growing cancer. This means aggressive treatment isnt always best.
If excess bladder emptying due to urge incontinence is a problem, your doctor may recommend anticholinergic drugs. These medications relax the detrusor muscle of the bladder.
If urinary retention is occurring due to BOO, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as tamsulosin, to help your urine flow be stronger.
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Urinary Tract Infections In Men
Men can get UTIs, particularly if they have trouble with urine flow. Older men who experience prostatitis are at a higher risk. If the bladder is not emptying properly, the build up ofurine makes it more difficult to cure the infection.
A small number of young men may get a UTI. In males, this is usually the result of a sexually transmitted disease.
Practice Good Sexual Hygiene
Some sexual intercourse bacteria and other microbes into the urinary tract. Practicing good sexual hygiene can help to reduce this risk.
Examples of good sexual hygiene include:
- urinating before and immediately after sex
- using barrier contraception, such as a condom
- washing the genitals, especially the foreskin, before and after engaging in sexual acts or intercourse
- ensuring that all sexual partners are aware of any current or past UTIs
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