A urine tract infection is something that women, in particular need to know about since it is a condition far more common among females than males. While nothing serious, a urine tract infection can be painful and debilitating.
The urinary tract is the system of the body that eliminates liquid waste or urine from the body and is said to include the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, and two sphincter muscles. A bacterial infection in any part of this urine elimination system is known as urine tract infection or a urinary tract infection.
The main signs and symptoms of a urine tract infection are as follows though the symptoms may depend upon the site of the infection (upper to lower urine tract infection and so on) –
- A burning feeling while passing urine (also known as dyrusia) is one of the most common infection symptoms.
- There is also a frequency of urination and the urge to ‘go’ even soon after emptying the bladder.
- In some cases there could be significant pain associated with it and there could also be vaginal discharge.
- If it is an upper urine tract infection, this could also have symptoms such as flank pain.
- Fever is generally present in a urine tract infection.
- Sometimes the urine could appear discolored or cloudy and could be foul smelling.
- At times a bloody discharge can be seen along with the urine.
- Most women experience these symptoms for about 5 days.
- When there is a urine tract infection among children, this could have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, fever and the appearance of being generally unwell. Older kids with a urine tract infection may experience pain, and even incontinence.
There are certain risk factors or behaviors that are associated with urine tract infection
- Being female is the main risk factor since more women than men experiences urine tract infection.
- Sexual activity is one of the main causes of this infection and there is the concept of “honeymoon cystitis” wherein, infection of the urine tract is seen more frequently among newlywed women. In some rare cases, women who are susceptible to it may get a urine tract infection each time they have sexual intercourse.
- Women who begin sexual intercourse early in life, have frequent sex and frequently change sexual partners may experiences more bladder and urine tract infections. On the other hand, women who are celibate or have a monogamous relationship are seen to be less at risk.
- Women who wait to urinate or ‘hold it back’ frequently are more prone to infection. Waiting too long to ‘go’ will stretch and ultimately weaken the bladder muscles which will cause the bladder to drain inadequately, and to retain some urine after each urination process. This urine retention could be a cause of urine tract infection.
- Some women have a genetic predisposition to having urinary tract infections stages of life, such pregnancy and menopause, having bladder or urine tract infections as a child, may all increase risk.