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The Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection

Updated on March 11, 2013
Staphylococcus saprophyticus isolate from a urine from a 21 year old pregnant female with proteinuria and a high urinary leucocyte count.
Staphylococcus saprophyticus isolate from a urine from a 21 year old pregnant female with proteinuria and a high urinary leucocyte count. | Source

Preventative care is the best way to avoid the signs and symptoms of urinary tract infection. The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Bacteria can enter the opening of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder and out of the body. As bacteria grow unchecked in the urinary tract, a urinary tract infection, or UTI, develops. The bacterial infection will take longer to enter the kidneys because of the way the ureters are connected to the bladder. Urine cannot back up into the kidneys. The bacteria will move into the kidneys if the infection is not treated in a timely manner. Healthy intervals of urination encourage the elimination of bacterial through the urethra. People of any age can develop a UTI.

Somewhere between eight and ten million people in the United States will develop urinary tract infections this year. The signs of urinary tract infection are the second highest cause of trips to the doctor’s office. Although the precise reasons are not known, significantly more women develop UTIs than men do. Some people believe a shorter urethra contributes to UTIs in women. Statistics prove that 20 percent of all women will develop a UTI during a given calendar year. Of those, one-fifth of them will have multiple UTIs. Some women are more prone to urinary tract infections than others are.


UTI Signs and Symptoms

After the first occurrence of a UTI, women learn to recognize the many physical signs and symptoms of urinary tract infection for themselves. Ignoring the symptoms is not a wise approach to personal health care. Early diagnosis allows the patient to take the necessary steps to cure the infection.

Young children will display one or more of the following signs of urinary tract infection. The exact health issue is difficult to diagnose because very young children cannot describe areas of pain.

• Unreasonable levels of crying that are not resolved by feeding or holding

• Nausea or vomiting

• Fever

• Loss of appetite

• Diarrhea

Older children are able to communicate additional symptoms that will provide important information for the parent and doctor. Most youngsters will need help with the words necessary to describe the condition.

• Incontinence

• Frequent urination

• Small amounts of urine produced

• Pain while urinating – dysuria

• Cloudy urine

• Unusual smell from the urine

• Lower back pain along the flanks

• Pelvic or abdominal pain

Adults have symptoms from cystitis, or urethritis, which are similar to children with a lower UTI. Early diagnosis is important since infections can cause other health issues.

• Fever

• Cloudy urine

• Strong urge to urinate with inability to do so

• Blood in the urine – hematuria

• Back pain near the kidneys

• Painful urination, which is called dysuria

• General physical discomfort – malaise

• Frequent waking during the night

• Pressure in the lower abdomen

• Burning sensation while urinating

Signs, symptoms and treatments for urinary tract infections (UTIs)


Upper Versus Lower Urinary Tract Infection

Bacterial infection in the bladder, or urethra, is considered a lower urinary tract infection, which is called cystitis. Inflammation in the urethra usually accompanies infection in the bladder. Symptoms of urinary tract infection become more pronounced as more of the urinary tract is involved. Upper urinary tract infections involve spread of bacteria to the kidneys, which is called pyelonephritis. Additional signs of urinary tract infection include fever, chills, back pain, nausea and vomiting. Early diagnosis will prevent spread of the bacteria into the upper urinary tract.

Natural Prevention of Urinary Tract Infection

The flow of urine through the urethra will wash away bacteria before it has time to multiply to infectious levels. For men, the natural secretions from the prostate gland slow bacterial growth. Men and women with healthy immune systems will not experience UTI if good hygiene habits are followed.


Causes of UTI

Bacteria of the E. coli strain are the most common cause of urinary tract infections in women. This strain of bacteria lives in the colon and can be spread from the rectum to the urethra. Certain situations will present increased potential for the development of a urinary tract infection.

Sexual intercourse - The bacteria can be spread from the anal area to the vagina and then to the urethra opening. The infection can spread to the bladder from the urethra. Women who are becoming sexually active for the first time must exercise care to prevent a urinary tract infection. Other types of bacteria, including sexually transmitted organisms, can cause UTIs for women and men.

Pregnancy – A woman can experience more frequent UTIs as the fetus grows during the pregnancy. The bladder becomes compressed against the floor of the abdominal cavity, which can prevent the bladder from emptying completely. Bacteria will reproduce more rapidly in this situation.

Birth control diaphragm – Infection is more likely when the diaphragm puts pressure on the sides of the urethra.

Menopause – Reduced estrogen production causes the tissues in the urinary tract to become thinner and more sensitive to inflammation. Normal immune resistance to infection is reduced, which allows bacteria to multiply.

Physical abnormality – Recurring UTIs might indicate structural anomalies in the urinary tract. Surgical correction is required in certain cases.


What the Doctor Does

Once the doctor understands the patient’s physical symptoms, a urine sample will be taken and tested. The signs of urinary tract infection dictate the use of a three- to five-day regimen of antibiotics. Treatment of a kidney infection will require more time and stronger antibiotics. Patients must realize that waiting for the infection to subside in this instance can cause more harm.

When Treatment is Required

Most lower urinary tract infections will be cured by the body’s natural ability to fight an infection. Physical symptoms that last longer than 48 hours dictate the need to visit a physician. Kidney infections can develop from a UTI that remains untreated. Damage to the kidneys is possible if the infection is allowed to progress.

Anyone experiencing back pain or fever should contact a physician for an appointment. These symptoms of urinary tract infection indicate that the upper urinary tract is involved. A kidney infection must be treated with antibiotics that are prescribed for the individual.

Healthy Habits to Prevent UTI

Daily routine plays an important role in the prevention of urinary tract infections. Internal and external health begins with consistent efforts to include each of the following activities.

Consume sufficient liquid – Urination should occur every four to five hours to prevent bacteria from multiplying in the urinary tract.

Drink cranberry juice – Drinking 10 ounces of cranberry juice each day can reduce the risk of UTI. Some studies suggest that cranberry juice prevents bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract.

Avoid artificial sweeteners – Natural sugars are digested completely. Some UTI sufferers know that consuming artificial sweeteners increases their bouts against UTI.

Never delay urinating – Extremely long intervals between urination contributes to the occurrence of UTI. Bacteria-laden urine must be emptied from the bladder to lower the bacteria count.

Include good hygiene – Bacteria around the anus will not be drawn toward the urethra when wiping from front to back.

Wash before sexual intercourse – Both partners must wash the genital area prior to sexual intercourse and urinate immediately following intercourse.

Evaluate birth control methods – Spermacides that contain nonoxynol-9 will change the bacterial balance in the vagina, which will allow E. coli bacteria to multiply rapidly. Diaphragms can be convenient but might increase the frequency of the symptoms of urinary tract infection.

Take showers, avoid bathtubs – Warm water is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Running water has less time to create the perfect environment for bacterial growth.

Use vaginal lubricant – Post-menopausal women can reduce the occurrence of UTI by using vaginal lubricants for sexual intercourse. Drier vaginal tissues are more easily irritated and infected.

Avoid feminine sprays and douches – Scented feminine products can irritate the urinary tract. Women must consider changes to the personal routine that occur just prior to the development of signs of urinary tract infection.


Prevention Trumps Treatment

Young children can learn good hygiene, and their health will be protected as they grow into adults. Everyone should be aware of the many ways that urinary tract infections are caused. As with any health condition, the treatment can cause other health issues to develop. Repetitive use of antibiotics will reduce the good bacteria that is present in the digestive tract. Some women experience yeast infections after taking antibiotics. Many doctors recommend the use of naturally cultured products, such as yogurt, to reintroduce healthy bacteria after the antibiotic regimen is completed. Healthy bacteria, such as acidophilus, plays an important role in the immune system. Proper immune balance is essential for anyone who wants to stay healthy.

Final Word

Recurring signs and symptoms of urinary tract infection can indicate other health conditions. An experienced physician will evaluate other aspects of the physical health. All recommendations offered by the physician should be implemented immediately. Any action that causes side effects should be stopped and followed by contact with the doctor’s office. A comprehensive description of what happened will allow the doctor to make important recommendations.


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    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      A very well written informative hub. U T I, or Urosepsis can become very serious if untreated, especially in the elderly, leading to other complications. Voting up and useful.


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