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A urinary tract infection is an infection that begins in your urinary system. Your urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Any part of your urinary system can become infected, but most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the urethra and the bladder. Women are at greater risk of developing a urinary tract infection than are men. A urinary tract infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying. However, serious consequences can occur if a urinary tract infection spreads to your kidneys. Antibiotics are the typical treatment for a urinary tract infection. But you can take steps to reduce your chance of getting a urinary tract infection in the first place.
Complications of Urinary Tract Infections
Causes of Urinary Tract Infections
The urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. All play a role in removing waste from your body. Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, the defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and multiply into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common urinary tract infections occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
Signs & Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
Not everyone with a urinary tract infection develops recognizable signs and symptoms, but most people have some.
In general, urinary tract infection signs and symptoms develop rapidly and can include:
Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Infections
Treatments of Urinary Tract Infections
If your symptoms are typical of a urinary tract infection and you're generally in good health, antibiotics are the first line of treatment. Which drugs are prescribed and for how long depends on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine.
Drugs commonly recommended for simple urinary tract infections include:
Usually, symptoms clear up within a few days of treatment. But you may need to continue antibiotics for a week or more. Take the entire course of antibiotics recommended by your doctor to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated.
For an uncomplicated urinary tract infection that occurs when you're otherwise healthy, your doctor may recommend a shorter course of treatment, such as taking an antibiotic for three days. But whether this short course of treatment is adequate to treat your infection depends on your particular symptoms and medical history.
Your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication (analgesic) that numbs your bladder and urethra to relieve burning while urinating. One common side effect of urinary tract analgesics is discolored urine — bright blue or orange.
If you have recurrent urinary tract infections, your doctor may recommend a longer course of antibiotic treatment or a self-treatment program with short courses of antibiotics at the outset of your urinary symptoms. Home urine tests, in which you dip a test stick into a urine sample, are now available that are highly sensitive and may be helpful if you experience recurring infections.
For infections related to sexual activity, your doctor may recommend taking a single dose of antibiotic after sexual intercourse.
If you're postmenopausal, your doctor may recommend vaginal estrogen therapy to minimize your chance of recurrent urinary tract infections.
For severe urinary tract infections, hospitalization and treatment with intravenous antibiotics may be necessary.
Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections
Take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:
When to seek Medical Advice
If you have symptoms of a urinary infection, contact your doctor promptly.
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