Urinary Tract Infections: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Written by Sai Pragna Chagarla, Staff Writer – Hola Health
Medically reviewed by Dr. Nelson Lau - MBBS FRACGP

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are a common health concern affecting millions of people worldwide, with women being more susceptible than men. While UTIs are not life-threatening, they can cause discomfort and, if left untreated, may lead to more severe complications

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract, which includes the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. The most common cause for the infection is Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium normally found in the digestive tract. Other bacteria including mycoplasma and chlamydia also cause UTIs.

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What Are The Types Of Urinary Tract Infections?

There are several types of UTIs depending on which part of the urinary system is attacked, namely:

  • Cystitis, which is the infection in the bladder and the most common infection in the lower urinary tract system.  
  • Urethritis, infection in the urethra, the small tube which expels the urine.  
  • Pyelonephritis, infection in the kidneys, a more serious form of UTI  

Uncomplicated UTIs typically occur in healthy women, involve the bladder, and cause urinary symptoms that respond readily to a short course of oral antibiotics. In contrast, complicated UTIs occur in individuals with urinary abnormalities, catheters, or impaired immunity, often cause systemic symptoms indicating a serious infection, necessitate more extensive diagnostic testing and intravenous antibiotics, and require concurrent treatment of any underlying conditions. Distinguishing uncomplicated from complicated UTIs is important for determining the appropriate management approach. 

Who Is At Risk Of Contracting UTIs?

Urinary Tract Infection is more common in women when compared to men. Around 1 in 2 women and 1 in 20 men will contract UTI and undergo treatment for it in their lifetime. The following are the main risk groups for UTIs 

  • Women: 1 in 3 women will have a UTI needing medical attention before the age of 24.  In women, the urethra is short and straight, this makes it easier for the germs to travel into the urinary system, especially the bladder. Frequent attacks can be attributed to:  
  • Women with hormonal changes such as periods, pregnancy, and menopause  
  • Women using spermicides or diaphragm for contraception.  
  • Older women with drier and thinner tissues in the urethra and bladder  
  • Constipation  
  • Family history or UTIs  
  • New sexual partner in the last one month   
  • Men are usually not as frequently affected as women. Men who experience inflammation in the prostate gland, have trouble with urine flow or have sexually transmitted diseases are more prone to the Urinary Tract Infection.  
  • Older people especially people on various medications or have an issue of urine incontinence.  
  • People with anatomical and functional abnormalities of the urinary tract 
  • People with diabetes  
  • People who use urinary catheters due to medical complications  
  • Indigenous Population of Australia: Socioeconomic challenges including limited access to healthcare, can influence UTI incidence among various populations, including indigenous communities in Australia. Addressing these disparities requires an integrated approach and access to telehealth services such as Hola Health.  

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of The Urinary Tract Infection?

The symptoms of a UTI depends on the severity and the area of infection. The lower urinary tract infection in bladder or urethra may have the following symptoms

  • Burning sensation while urinating  
  • Wanting to urinate more often and a feeling that the bladder is full even after urinating.  
  • Cloudy, dark, and smelly urine  

More serious symptoms indicate an infection in the kidney, especially:  

  • Fever and chills  
  • Vomiting  
  • Extreme pain in the lower abdomen, lower back, or sides  

No matter what level the urinary tract infection is at, it is important to consult a GP immediately to avoid further infection to kidneys and in worst case scarring of the kidneys. It’s also important to note that some UTIs may not present any symptoms, particularly in the elderly, making regular medical check-ups crucial for those at higher risk. 

How Can The UTI Be Diagnosed?

After first contact with the GP, depending on the symptoms, they might ask for the diagnostics test of the urine sample as a urine culture is the gold standard for diagnosing UTIs to ensure that the appropriate antibiotic is selected. Oral antibiotics might be prescribed if the infection can be managed at home. Severe cases of UTI that progressed into a kidney infection might require hospitalisation.   

Precautions To Be Taken To Prevent UTI:

While UTIs are common, several strategies can help reduce the risk of developing an infection:

  • Hydrate, drinking plenty of fluids especially water will flush out the bacteria from the urinary tract.  
  • Wipe from front to back after urinating to ensure the bacteria from the anal region does not enter the urethra.  
  • Pass urine after intercourse- this is especially for women.  
  • Prevent constipation.  
  • Avoid using perfumed soaps, powders, and products in the genital area. Wash with plain water.  

For those with recurrent UTIs or underlying health conditions, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for personalised recommendations on how to prevent UTIs.  

How Do I Book An Appointment For a UTI?

High wait times, travelling long distances for an appointment can now be avoided. Get a doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes with Hola Health’s GP consult.   Have a prescription from the doctor? Get medicines delivered to your home or workplace with Hola Health.  

Are UTIs More Common In Summer?

Preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) during the summer months requires special attention to factors that may contribute to increased risk. In a country known for its outdoor lifestyle, dehydration due to elevated temperatures can contribute to UTIs, emphasising the importance of adequate fluid intake.  

Urinary tract infections are a common health issue that can cause discomfort and inconvenience. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent complications and ensure a speedy recovery. If you experience symptoms of a UTI, such as pain during urination or frequent urination, seek medical attention promptly for proper diagnosis and treatment.  

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Reference

1. Urinary Tract Infections, Health Direct : Reference Link

2. Factsheet, Kidney health Australia – Kidney Health Australia : Reference Link

3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney disease : Reference Link

4. NSW Government – Agency for Clinical innovation : Reference Link

5. Australian Urology Associates – Urinary Tract Infection: Reference Link

6. National Library of Medicine – Warm weather and risk of Urinary Tract Infections in Women : Reference Link

7. The royal children’s hospital Melbourne : Reference Link

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.