Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A Urinary Tract Infection is an infection which can take place in different parts of the urinary tract system including: kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra.

There are two main types of infections of the urinary tract:

  • Infection of urethra (urethritis):This type of UTI normally occurs when gastro intestinal (GI) bacteria distributes from anus to the urethra. In addition, due to short distance between female urethra and vagina, sexually transmitted infections, including: herpes, chlamydia and mycoplasma, can cause urethritis.
  • Infection of the bladder (cystitis):This type of UTI caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) which typically can be found in gastrointestinal tract. Sexual intercourse is an important factor which may lead to cystitis. Women are at higher risk of cystitis due to their anatomy.

UTIs signs and symptoms include: a strong, persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, strong-smelling urine and pelvic pain in women especially in the centre of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone. However, these signs and symptoms are not always present.

Urinary tract infections take place when the defence mechanism, which keeps bacteria out of the urinary tract system, fails to function properly and bacteria get into the urinary tract. Once bacteria get into the system, they start to multiply and result in an infection in the urinary tract.

The risk of developing a UTI is higher in women than men. There are also some other factors which increase the risk of UTIs, especially in women including: sexual activity, menopause, certain types of birth controls and urinary tract abnormalities.

If UTIs are treated properly this decreases the risk of complications. However, untreated UTIs may lead to consequences such as recurrent infections, especially in women who experience three or more UTIs, permanent kidney damage from an acute or chronic kidney infection (pyelonephritis) due to an untreated UTI, increased risk in pregnant women of delivering low birth weight or premature infants. Untreated UTIs can be potentially life-threatening, leading to sepsis, a complex and hard-to-treat infection, especially if the infection works its way up your urinary tract to your kidneys.

The treatments and drugs are dependent on the severity of the infections. Typically, antibiotics are the first line treatment for UTIs. Drugs which are commonly used for simple UTIs include:

  • Ampicillin
  • Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
  • Cephalexin (Keflex)

In case of severe UTIs, treatment with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital may be required.