A urinary tract infection is the term used for an infection that occurs in any part of the urinary system; the urinary system is made up of the bladder, kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder; these tubes carry urine) and the urethra. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, which enter the urinary system through the urethra (rarely, bacteria may also enter through the blood stream). UTIs are much more common in women than men; it is estimated that 50 percent of women will receive treatment for a UTI at some point in their lives.
There are two types of urinary tract infection; these include lower and upper tract infections. Lower urinary tract infections occur in the lower portion of the tract; this includes the bladder and the urethra. An upper UTI occurs in the upper portion of the tract; this includes the kidneys and ureters.
Symptoms of a UTI
Symptoms vary according to which part of the urinary tract is infected. Symptoms of lower urinary tract infections include:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Pain during urination
- Burning sensation during urination
- Abdominal pain (in the lower abdomen)
- Nasty smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
- Slightly higher temperature than normal (between 37 and 38 degrees)
Symptoms of upper urinary tract infections include:
- High temperature (over 38 degrees)
- Pain in the lower back (usually on one side only)
- Any of the symptoms of the lower UTI listed above
Treatment for a UTI
Urinary tract infections can usually be treated quickly and effectively with a course of antibiotics; upper UTIs usually require a 7 day course, while lower UTIs usually only require a 3 day course.