The urinary tract is the organ system that filters waste from the blood to make urine and carry it out of the body. This system includes the kidneys, bladder, urethra and connecting tubes. If inappropriate bacteria get into this system, it can lead to an infection. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is any infection in the kidney, bladder, or tubes connecting these organs.
In most cases, urinary tract infections are the result of bacteria entering the urethra and traveling to the bladder. Typically, UTI-causing bacteria originated from the large intestine and are found in the stool.
People with diabetes, kidney stones, enlarged prostate and women who are pregnant carry a higher risk for a urinary tract infection. Anyone can get a UTI; however, women tend to get urinary tract infections more frequently than men, due to their shorter urethra. Sexual activity can increase the chances of a woman contracting a UTI. Some women experience recurring bladder infections, for reasons that are not well understood.
Common symptoms of a urinary tract infection include burning during urination, frequent feelings of needing to urinate without much urine coming out, discolored, smelly or cloudy urine, pain on one side of the lower back, fever, chills, and nausea. Patients with a UTI may experience one or all of these symptoms.
Patients should contact a doctor right away if they experience fever and nausea in conjunction with pain on one side of the lower back, as this could indicate a kidney infection. Pregnant women, patients over 65, or those with diabetes, kidney problems or a compromised immune function should also seek medical attention if they suspect a UTI.
Urinary tract infections are treated with a course of antibiotics. It is important to finish the entire prescribed course of antibiotics to ensure that the infection does not return. Drinking lots of water can help speed recovery.
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