A urinary tract infection is a commonly treated condition that is especially prevalent in the elderly, babies and pregnant women. The urinary system is made up of the bladder, urethra and kidneys. Any one of these organs can be infected, depending on the type of urinary tract infection.
Three different types of urinary tract infections are possible: cystitis, urethritis and pyelonephritis. The most common is urethritis, or infection of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that removes urine from your bladder and expels it from the body. It is the most common type of UTI because it is often the entry point of UTI-causing bacteria. When the bacteria continue to travel up the urinary tract, cystitis is developed. Cystitis is infection of the bladder. Pyelonephritis is the most serious UTI because it affects the kidneys, delicate organs that can be damaged easily. Cystitis can lead to pyelonephritis if the bacteria continue to travel up the urinary tract. As a rule, the higher up your infection has traveled, the more serious it is.
Regardless of the type of urinary tract infection, it generally starts with the bacteria that can be found on the skin, in the intestinal tract or in the stool. When those bacteria spread into the urethra, they attach themselves to the urinary lining and begin to multiply. You can spread bacteria to your urethra through normal sexual intercourse or poor hygiene. For example, wiping back to front after a bowel movement may spread bacteria from your stool to your urethra.
A burning sensation while you urinate can mean you have a urinary tract infection. So can burning or cramping in your pelvis or lower back. You may also notice that you suddenly have the urge to urinate often, but little or no urine will come out. When urine does come out, it is dark, cloudy or smelly. Sometimes, you can even see blood in your urine when you have a urinary tract infection.
Urinary tract infections are easily treated. Mild cases can be treated by taking over-the-counter pain medicine and increasing the amount of fluids you drink. Your own immune system will do the rest. If your infection is a little more serious, you may need to see your health care provider. He will prescribe antibiotics for up to two weeks. You may start to feel better almost immediately after you begin to take the antibiotics. Still, you should always finish the course of antibiotics to prevent recurring urinary tract infections.
Prevent UTIs by maintaining a healthy immune system that can fight off infection. Also, wash your genitals at least once a day and after sex. You may also try urinating after sex to flush out any bacteria that may have been pushed into your urethra. Taking cranberry or vitamin C supplements can also prevent urinary tract infections from developing.