Urine infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common problem affecting kids and adults alike; the primary causes of urine infection are the presence of bacteria (viz. E.Coli) in the urinary system. According to the American Urological Association, nearly 8 million people are diagnosed with UTI each year. Of these, nearly 3/4th of the patients are females.
Let us study the various causes of urine infection in detail.
Every human being has a urinary tract system that is capable of making, storing and expelling urine as required. The system is highly complicated and intricate and used on a daily basis. Urine is normally sterile (which means that there is no bacteria present in it) but it does contain salts, fluids and waste products. Even if bacteria do enter the urine system for some reason, the body’s immune system is capable of removing it without difficulty. In case of UTI, the immune system fails to remove the bacteria leading to infection and urine problems. Based on the exact causes of urine infection, the age, gender as well as the overall health of the individuals, different problems arise due to such bacterial infection.
Typical causes of urine infections
To understand the definitive causes of urine infection in adults, let us see how bacteria may enter the urinary tract:
- Naturally helpful bacteria from the gut or the digestive system sometimes enter the urinary system and multiply rapidly.
- The bacteria from the reproductive tract enter the urinary tract causing infection.
- Sexual intercourse is a primary factor responsible for such transfer of bacteria from the digestive or reproductive systems to the urinary system.
- Sexually active females are likelier to get UTI primarily due to their anatomy (shorter distances required for bacteria to travel from the anus to the urethra).
- Females using diaphragms or female condoms are also believed to be more susceptible to such infections.
- Likewise, postmenopausal women producing lower quantities of vaginal mucous need to be aware of the various causes of urine infection in order to prevent and avoid UTIs, since vaginal mucous is naturally supposed to curb bacterial growth.
- Adults who are prone to kidney stones or other chronic kidney problems, or have used catheters for longer periods are also believed to have higher risks of such infections.
- Other common causes of urine infection include diabetes, since high blood sugar naturally weakens the immune system leaving one susceptible to infections.
- In case of children, the causes of urine infection can be attributed to the toilet training toddler years or to the adolescence stages when sexual activity begins.
Types of urinary tract problems
Urinary tract infections can be classified as upper or lower UTIs. Upper UTI occurs when the bacterial infections occur in the kidneys or ureters while lower UTIs occur when the bladder and urethra are affected. Cystitis is the most common type of lower UTI. Other common (and potentially fatal) infection of the kidneys is pyelonephritis.
Signs and symptoms of upper and lower UTI
Typical signs of UTI in children include:
- Malodorous urine
- Gastrointestinal presentations including vomiting, diarrhea etc.
In adults and toilet trained children, the signs of UTI vary based on the exact causes of urine infection:
- Dysuria (painful or frequent urination)
- Hematuria (presence of blood in urine)
- Urinary urgency and frequency
Myths and Facts related to UTI
- Often people believe that unclean genital areas are the leading causes of urine infection. The fact is: there is no definite scientific evidence that states that showering after intercourse can help prevent UTI.
- Secondly, many believe that UTIs are not serious. As stated before, it is important to note that certain kinds of UTI, if left untreated, can be fatal.
- Another common misconception is that only adults get UTIs. However, as mentioned above, even babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers and the elderly anywhere can get a urinary tract infection.
As can be seen, there are various causes of urine infection and it is very important to diagnose and treat them early on to prevent further complications.