The importance of addressing urinary tract infections or UTIs: Symptoms, diagnosis and treatments

Urinary tract infections are a common health problem that affects many people at some point in their lives. These infections can be caused by bacteria that enter the urinary system, usually through the urethra, and multiply in the bladder or other organs of the urinary tract. While it is true that it is common to contract certain infections, it is important to be aware of our symptoms and seek urological care if we experience recurring urinary infections.

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, bladder, ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys and bladder), and urethra (tube through which urine leaves the body). UTIs are mainly caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the urinary system.

Urinary tract infections are more common in women because their urethra is shorter, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter. However, men can also develop UTIs, although less frequently.

What causes a urinary tract infection?

Possible causes include structural abnormalities of the urinary system, such as kidney stones or congenital malformations, which can make it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract. Additionally, factors such as immunosuppression, diabetes, pregnancy, or prolonged use of urinary catheters may increase the risk of developing recurrent urinary tract infections.

Difference between UTI and Cystitis

UTI is a urinary tract infection that affects any part of the urinary system. Cystitis is a urinary tract infection that exclusively affects the bladder.

UTI Classification

UTIs can be classified into different categories depending on the specific part of the urinary system that is affected:

  • Infection of the urethra (Urethritis): Urethritis is an inflammation and infection of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. It is generally caused by sexually transmitted bacteria, such as Chlamydia trachomatis or Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Symptoms include pain or burning when urinating, abnormal discharge, and itching of the urethra.
  • Bladder infection (Cystitis): Cystitis is an infection of the urinary bladder, which is the organ responsible for storing urine before elimination. Most cystitis is caused by intestinal bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli). Common symptoms include pain or burning sensation when urinating, frequent and urgent need to urinate, cloudy or strong-smelling urine, and discomfort in the lower abdomen.
  • Infection of the ureters (Ureteritis): Ureteritis is an infection of the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Although less common than other UTIs, it can occur in cases of ascending infections or when bacteria spread from the bladder to the ureters.
  • Kidney infection (Pyelonephritis): Pyelonephritis is a serious bacterial infection that affects the kidneys. It may be the result of an ascending infection from the bladder or bacteria entering the bloodstream and lodged in the kidneys. Symptoms include severe pain in the back or sides, high fever, chills, nausea and vomiting. Pyelonephritis requires immediate medical attention and prolonged antibiotic treatment.

In addition to this classification according to the affected parts of the urinary tract, UTIs can also be classified into uncomplicated infections (occur in healthy people without structural abnormalities in the urinary tract) and complicated infections (occur in people with underlying medical conditions, abnormalities in the urinary tract). urinary or recurrent).

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Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI)

Recurrent urinary tract infections can be very annoying and significantly affect the quality of life of those who suffer from them. Typical symptoms of a urinary tract infection include burning when urinating, frequent and urgent need to urinate, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, and a feeling of pressure or pain in the lower abdomen. If these symptoms persist or reappear shortly after completing treatment, it is essential to seek urological help to obtain a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.

What to do when you have a UTI?

Although it is common to contract urinary tract infections at some point in our lives, it is essential to pay attention to the symptoms and seek urological care if the infections become recurrent. An appropriate approach to diagnosis and treatment can help us identify and treat possible underlying causes, thereby reducing the frequency of urinary tract infections.

How long does a urinary tract infection last?

The duration of a urinary tract infection (UTI) can vary depending on several factors, such as the severity of the infection, the type of bacteria involved, and how quickly treatment is sought. Generally, with proper treatment, UTI symptoms usually improve within a few days and the infection can resolve completely within one to two weeks.

How do you know if it is a serious urinary tract infection?

There are some signs and symptoms that could indicate the presence of a serious urinary tract infection, such as pyelonephritis. These symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain in the lower back or sides: The pain can be sharp and persistent or cramping.
  • High fever: A high body temperature, usually above 38 degrees Celsius, may be an indication of a serious urinary tract infection. The fever is usually accompanied by chills.
  • Chills and tremors: Chills are episodes of intense cold and involuntary shaking, which can accompany fever and severe kidney infection.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Kidney infection can cause stomach upset, nausea and vomiting.
  • General malaise and weakness: A serious urinary tract infection can cause a general feeling of malaise and weakness, and can affect the ability to carry out daily activities.

What happens if a urinary tract infection is not treated?

If a urinary tract infection is not treated, there are several possible complications and health risks, such as:

  • Spread of infection: An untreated UTI can spread upward along the urinary tract, reaching the ureters and kidneys. This can lead to pyelonephritis, which can cause kidney damage and require more intensive treatment.
  • Recurrent infection: If a UTI is not treated properly, there is a risk that the infection will become recurrent, meaning it repeats frequently. Recurrent urinary tract infections can be a chronic problem and require longer treatments or additional preventative measures.
  • Kidney damage: Untreated recurrent or severe urinary tract infections can cause long-term kidney damage.
  • Sepsis: In very severe cases, an untreated UTI can lead to sepsis, a widespread and life-threatening infection. Sepsis can affect multiple organs and systems in the body and requires urgent medical attention.
  • Complications in pregnancy: Untreated UTIs during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications for both the mother and the fetus. These complications can include premature birth, low birth weight, infection in the uterus, and risk of infection in the newborn.

Diagnosis and treatments of urinary tract infections or UTIs

The diagnosis and treatment of a UTI generally involves the following steps:

Diagnosis:

  • Symptom assessment: such as pain when urinating, frequent need to urinate, cloudy or strong-smelling urine, and discomfort in the pelvic or abdominal area.
  • Medical history: Information will be collected about your medical history, including any pre-existing conditions, previous surgeries, medication use, and other relevant factors.
  • Physical exam: The doctor will perform a physical exam to evaluate possible signs of infection, such as tenderness in the pelvic area or pain in the kidneys.
  • Urine analysis: A urine test will be performed to detect the presence of bacteria, white blood cells, and other indicators of infection. This is usually done through a urine sample analysis in a laboratory.
  • Urine culture: It is essential to culture the urine to determine which germ is causing the UTI.

Treatment:

  • Antibiotics: Standard treatment for urinary tract infections involves the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection. The type of antibiotic and duration of treatment will depend on the severity of the infection, culture results, and other factors specific to each patient.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water helps dilute urine and promote the elimination of bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Symptom relief: Pain relievers may be recommended to relieve pain or discomfort associated with the infection.

It is essential to follow the urologist's instructions and complete the entire prescribed course of antibiotics, even if symptoms disappear sooner, to ensure complete elimination of the infection and prevent recurrences.

Prevention of urinary tract infections

In addition to medical treatment, we can also take some preventive measures to reduce the risk of recurrent urinary tract infections:

  • Maintain good personal hygiene: Wash the genital area from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent the spread of bacteria to the urethra.
  • Drink enough water: Staying well hydrated helps dilute urine and eliminate bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Urinate regularly: Do not hold urine for long periods and empty the bladder completely every time we go to the bathroom.
  • Avoid prolonged use of irritating products: Harsh chemicals, such as scented soaps or feminine sprays, can irritate the urethra and encourage infections. It is better to opt for gentle products with a pH suitable for the skin.
  • Maintain a balanced diet: A healthy diet can strengthen the immune system and help prevent infections.
  • Consult your doctor about contraceptives: Some birth control methods can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

In conclusion, it is essential to seek specialized medical care, like the one we offer at our urology service, for the proper treatment of urinary infections. Ignoring or not properly treating an infection can lead to serious complications and worsen the condition. Our team of experts is here to provide them with the necessary care and help them overcome any urinary tract infection they may face. We invite you to contact us and schedule an appointment to receive the care and treatment you deserve. Your urinary health is our priority.

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