What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection is simply an infection that originates in the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Any part of this system can potentially become infected, but the most common sites of infection are the bladder and urethra. it is much less common for the infection to travel from the bladder through the ureters to the kidneys.
Women are at much higher risk of these types of infections than men are, purely for anatomical reasons. For women, the shorter length of the urethra, and the proximity of the anal and vaginal openings, makes urinary infections a more common medical issue.
As long as it is limited to the urethra and bladder, a urinary tract infection is painful and inconvenient, but rarely dangerous. If the infection spreads to the kidneys, however, the consequences can be severe.
What are the Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection?
Some urinary tract infections are asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms are noticed at all. However, most people do experience some symptoms of urinary tract infections, which may include the following:
- A very strong and persistent need to urinate (even if you have urinated recently)
- Burning sensation and pain upon urination
- Frequent urination while passing only small amounts of urine
- Cloudy or bloody urine
Other symptoms of urinary tract infection depend on exactly where the infection is located.
Kidney infection: pain in the flanks or upper back, fever with chills and shaking, nausea and vomiting
Bladder infection: painful and frequent urination, low fever, lower abdominal discomfort, feeling of pressure in the pelvic area.
Urethra infection: feeling of burning during urination.
Treating Urinary Tract Infections
Treatment for isolated urinary tract infections is typically a short course of antibiotics such as amoxicillin or ciprofloxacin. In most cases, symptoms will subside after a few days of this treatment (but as with all antibiotics, the full course prescribed by your doctor should be taken, even if symptoms disappear early). A longer course of antibiotics is usually prescribed for recurrent infections.
Getting prompt treatment for urinary tract infections is important – if left untreated, chronic or acute kidney infection may result, and may lead to permanent kidney damage.