Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Causes and Symptom

Urinary tract infections are caused by microbes such as bacteria which can can affect any part of the urinary system which can be the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra .

Updated: June 16, 2022

Urinary tract infections are caused by microbes such as bacteria which can can affect any part of the urinary system which can be the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra .
Depending on where the UTI occur, there are different types which include :

  •     Bladder infection - cystitis
  •     Urethra infection - urethritis
  •     Kidney infection - pyelonephritis

The ureters are very rarely the site of infection. 

Causes UTIs in Women:

The majority of UTI cases are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), usually found in the digestive system. Chlamydia and Mycoplasma bacteria can infect the urethra but not the bladder.
The urinary tract is responsible for removing waste and excess water from the body. It consists of the bladder, the kidneys, the ureters, and the urethra. The kidneys filter the blood and remove waste and surplus water to form urine, which then travels down the ureters and is stored in the bladder until it is ready to be passed through the urethra (urination).
The opening of the urethra is the end of the penis in males and at the front of the vagina in females. The urinary tract can be divided into the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract. The upper urinary tract consists of the kidneys and the ureters, and the lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and the urethra.
The urethra  is located close to the anus. When bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, escape the anus and enter the urethra, they travel up to the bladder. If the infection isn't treated, this can continue on to infect the kidneys. Women may be especially prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras, which allow bacteria quick access to the bladder. Having sex can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, too.
Pregnant women usually do not develop a UTI . But if one does occur, it is more likely to travel up to the kidneys because of anatomical changes during pregnancy that affect the urinary tract.
UTI in pregnancy can be dangerous,  particularly with upper urinary tract infections for both maternal and infant health. Recurrent or long-lasting kidney infections (chronic) can cause permanent damage. Some sudden kidney infections (acute) can be life-threatening, particularly if septicemia (bacteria entering the bloodstream) occurs. They can also increase the risk of women delivering low birth weight or premature infants. Hence even if there are no symptoms, most pregnant women are tested for the presence of bacteria in their urine and treated with antibiotics to prevent spread.

Factors that can increase the risk of developing a UTI are:

  • Diabetes
  • Problems emptying the bladder completely
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Blocked flow of urine
  • Kidney stones
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Some forms of contraception
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Immobility for a long period
  • Use of spermicides and tampons
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Heavy use of antibiotics

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections:

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection depends on age, gender, the presence of a catheter and what part of the urinary tract has been infected. 
Common symptoms of urinary tract infection include:

  • Strong and frequent urge to urinate
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • Cloudy, bloody, or strong smelling urine
  • Muscle aches and abdominal pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills

People with catheters may only experience fever as a symptom, making diagnosis more difficult.

Acute pyelonephritis:

Acute pyelonephritis is a sudden and severe kidney infection and considered as an emergency which should be evaluated by a doctor immediately if suspected.
Upper back and side pain, high fever, shaking, chills, fatigue, and mental changes are the symptoms of this condition.

Cystitis:

It is a  a bladder infection which have symptoms of low fever, and pressure and cramping in the abdomen and lower back.



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