It’s hard to believe that almost 1.5 million people per year have to be hospitalized for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Women are the most susceptible to UTIs due to female anatomy. UTIs are typically limited to the bladder which leaves the patient with pain. Serious consequences occur when the UTI spreads to the kidneys; hence it is important to get care as soon as possible.
What causes UTI
Almost everyone has some risk of getting a UTI but some people are more prone to getting UTIs than others:
- Anyone with an abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine such as a a kidney stone or enlarged prostate
- People with diabetes or problems with the body’s natural defense system
- Sexual activity that can move microbes from the bowel or vaginal cavity to the urethral opening.
- Use of catheters, or tubes, placed in the urethra and bladder. Catheters interfere with the body’s ability to clear microbes from the urinary tract.
- People with spinal cord injuries or other nerve damage near the bladder may have a difficult time emptying their bladder completely and bacteria can grow and stay in the bladder.
How are UTIs diagnosed?
Typically, your health provider will ask about your urinary symptoms and then they will test a sample of urine to see if bacteria is present and to see if white blood cells are present. If white blood cells are present it is because they are being produced to fight infection. Bacteria can be found in the urine of healthy individuals also, so a UTI is diagnosed by symptoms and laboratory tests. The person will be asked to give a “clean catch” urine sample by washing the genital area and collecting a “midstream” sample of urine in a sterile container. This method of collecting urine helps prevent bacteria around the genital area from getting into the sample and confusing the test results. Those people who have recurring infections may need to have the urine cultured. The urine sample is put in a dish and the bacteria is encouraged to grow. This assists with identifying the type of bacteria and may help determine the appropriate antibiotics to treat the infection.
How are UTIs treated?
Most UTIs are caused by bacteria so the treatment of choice is antibiotics or antimicrobials. Which type of medication and the length of taking the medication is dependent on the type of bacteria, patient history and other causes of infection.
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