The urinary tract (or urinary system) is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Urine drains from the kidneys, through the ureters and into the bladder where it is stored, before being expelled from the body via the urethra.
Infections in the urinary tract are common and can have several underlying causes. They are more common in women than men as the female urethra is much shorter. As many as 50% of women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their lives, but only around 10% of men will.
What is a urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infections are usually caused by bacteria, ( or sometimes fungi) and can involve any part of the urinary tract.
The different types of urinary tract infectioninclude:
- Pyelonephritis – infection involving your kidneys
- Cystitis –infection involving your bladder
- Urethritis – infection involving your urethra
What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?
The symptoms of a urinary tract infection depend upon the type of infection you have and can include:
- Burning or pain when urinating (dysuria)
- Frequent, sudden or urgent need to urinate (both during the day and night)
- Cloudy, offensive smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Lower Abdominal or back pain
- A high temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
What causes a urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infections are most commonly caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. This can happen if women don’t wipe from front to back, or during sex.
There are also other factors that can contribute to the development of urinary tract infections, including:
- Older age
- Urinary tract stones
- Abnormal anatomy of the urinary tract
- History of previous/recurrent urinary tract infections
- Urinary tract obstructions (e.g. an enlarged prostate)
- Urinary catheters
- A compromised immune system
How is a urinary tract infection diagnosed?
If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, you should see your consultant.
If your consultant suspects that you have a urinary tract infection, you will likely be asked to provide a urine sample, which can be cultured for bacteria and examined for white and red blood cells.
Investigations you might also undergo include:
- Blood tests
- An ultrasound scan
- A CT scan
- An MRI scan
- A cystoscopy
How is a urinary tract infection treated?
Treatments for urinary tract infections include:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Vaginal cream containing oestrogen
- Cystoscopy and dilation of the urethra
If you’re unsure which treatment is most appropriate for you, or the above treatments are unsuccessful, our team of expert specialists are here to help.