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Urinary Tract Infections

The Urinary Tract

The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of your body’s liquid waste products.

  • The kidneys produce 1.5 to 2 quarts of urine every day by removing waste and water from the blood.
  • The urine travels from the kidneys down two narrow tubes, called ureters. It is then stored in a balloon-like container called the bladder.
  • In an adult, the bladder can hold 10 to 20 ounces of urine (about as much liquid as in one can of soda). When the bladder is about half full, you may begin to feel the need to empty it by urinating.
  • Urine is carried out of the body through the urethra, a tube that begins at the bottom of the bladder. The end of the urethra is near the top of the vagina in women. In men the urethra passes through the prostate gland and exits at the tip of the penis.

Urinary Tract Infections

Normal urine contains no bacteria (sometimes referred to as ‘germs’), but bacteria do cover your skin and are present in large numbers in the rectal area and in your bowel movements. Bacteria may, at times, get into the urinary tract (and the urine) and may travel up the urethra into the bladder.

When this happens, the bacteria cause infection and inflammation of the bladder. In other words, they multiply, causing irritation, swelling, pain and burning during urination.

If the bacteria travel upward from the bladder through the ureters and reach the kidneys, you may develop a kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis. Kidney infections are much less common but often more serious than bladder infections.

Causes

Some people, mainly women, develop urinary tract infections because they are prone to such infections. Urinary tract infections are much less common in men and children than in adult women.

A number of factors may increase a person’s risk of getting a urinary tract infection. Some of these factors include:

  • Certain diseases (such as diabetes) or an abnormal urinary system
  • Recently having had a medical instrument inserted into the urethra
  • Sexual contact

A urinary tract infection in a man or child may be the sign of an abnormal urinary tract. For this reason, when men or children are found to have a urinary tract infection, they may be referred to a urologist (a specialist in diseases of the urinary system and the male reproductive system) for additional tests and x-rays.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the Abdomen and Pelvic Area: When you have a urinary tract infection, the lining of the bladder and urethra becomes irritated just as the inside of your nose or throat does when you have a cold. The irritation can cause pain in your abdomen and pelvic area and may make you feel the need to constantly empty your bladder.
  • Your need to urinate may seem urgent; but when you try to do so, you may produce only a few drops of urine.
  • A burning sensation as the urine comes out.
  • Urinating may be hard to control; in fact, some urine may leak onto your clothing.
  • The urine has an unpleasant odor or a cloudy look.
  • May cause low back pain, fever, or chills.

Kidney infections produce fever and back pain much more commonly than do bladder infections. If a kidney infection is not treated promptly, the bacteria may spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection.

In an infant or young child, the signs of a urinary tract infection may not be clear, especially if the child is too young to tell you just how he or she feels. Instead, the child may be irritable, not eat as much as usual, have a fever or loose bowel movements, or just not seem healthy. If the symptoms last more than a day, they may signal the need to see a doctor.

Diagnosis

Only by consulting a doctor can you find out for certain whether you or your child has a urinary tract infection. If you think that such an infection might be present, call us to schedule an appointment. If you see blood in the urine, you should call us right immediately. Bloody urine is not normally caused by an infection, it may mean that you have a different urinary tract problem.

Treatment

Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics (infection-fighting drugs), which are generally taken by mouth. The doctor will choose a drug that treats the bacteria most likely to be causing your infection. Once the test results are in, however, the physician may switch you to another antibiotic, one that is more effective against the particular bacteria found in your urine.

The daily treatment schedule your doctor recommends depends on the specific drug prescribed. It may call for a single dose each day or up to four daily doses. Unless urinary tract infections are fully treated, they frequently return.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms call us to schedule an appointment for a complete evaluation to determine the best option for you.

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