Urinary-Tract Infection Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    A UTI is characterized by a number of symptoms Table 02. While it's possible to have a UTI without any symptoms, at least 10% to 20% of women experience symptoms of a UTI at some point in their lives.

    Feeling a repetitive, frequent, and urgent need to urinate, even if there's nothing to void, pain or burning during urination (dysuria), and waking from sleep due to the need to urinate (nocturia) are the most common symptoms produced by a UTI.

    A UTI that has travelled in the kidneys, causing a more serious infection known as pyelonephritis may cause more severe and more ominous symptoms, such as back pain, vomiting, and fever.

    Since children and the elderly are less likely to articulate symptoms of a UTI, parents should watch for changes in their child's physical and mental states—such as irritability, loss of appetite, or fever that may be signs of UTI. Caregivers of elderly people should look for signs of decreased urination, confusion, and irritability, particularly in elderly people who have dementia and cannot articulate their medical symptoms.

    Table 2.  Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection

    Symptoms in adults
    The need to urinate frequently
    Urgency, often followed by an inability to urinate
    Burning upon urination
    The need to get up in the night to go to the bathroom
    Pain, tenderness, or pressure in the area below the navel (the location of the bladder)
    Cloudy and/or foul-smelling urine
    Fever and/or chills
    Nausea and/or vomiting
    Pain in the upper back or side
    Blood in urine
    Symptoms in children
    Low-grade fever
    Irritability
    Abdominal pain
    Lack of appetite
    Strong-smelling urine
    Wetting the bed at night when one hasn't done so previously
    Blood in urine
  • Risk Factors

    Women have a higher risk of developing a UTI than do men Table 03. The anatomy of the female genital and urinary tracts make women more prone to UTIs. In women, the tube through which urine travels (the urethra) is very short, and empties very close to the vaginal opening. Therefore, it is easy for bacteria from the vagina to travel to the urethra and then to the bladder, causing acute cystitis. By contrast, men have a much longer urethra, making it harder for the bacteria to travel to and settle in the bladder.

    Antibacterial prostatic secretions also lessen the likelihood that men will develop UTIs.

    Additionally, there's only a very narrow band of flesh (the perineum) between the anus and vagina in women. Therefore, it is easy for bacteria to move from the anus to the vagina, and from there to the urethra and the bladder.

    A man's risk for UTI increases with age. Older men are more likely to experience prostate-related problems that could lead to a UTI. For example, it is common for a man's prostate gland to enlarge around the age of 50. This enlargement can constrict the urethra, which then obstructs the flow of urine. If the flow is constricted, urine can pool in the bladder, creating an environment in which bacteria can multiply and cause an infection.

    Spinal cord abnormalities due to injury or genetic defects can foster UTIs. Abnormalities of the spinal cord, caused either by trauma or genetic defects, can cause UTIs in both men and women. For example, normal urinary control results from complex signals from the spinal cord and the overall nervous system. When those signals are disrupted, the bladder's ability to empty properly can be impaired, leading to urine back-up and infection. Patients with spinal cord injuries who have catheters in their bladder are at especially high risk of UTIs. Elderly people who have catheters in their bladders are also at higher risk.

    Table 3.  Risk Factor Checklist

    ?Women only
    Wiping back to front after urinating or after a bowel movement
    Not cleaning one's diaphragm properly, or handling it with unclean hands
    Not changing sanitary pads and/or tampons regularly
    Vaginal dryness
    Using spermicides and/or spermicide-coated condoms
    Anatomical issues
    Abnormalities that block the urinary system
    Spinal cord problems that prevent the bladder from emptying properly
    Prostate problems
    Lack of circumcision
    An abnormal connection between the bladder and vagina (vesicovaginal fistula) in women
    Other factors
    Diabetes
    Genetics
    Use of tubes, catheters, and other instruments in hospitalized patients
    Use of some laundry products

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