Urinary Tract Infection Causes

A urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary tract, which is comprised of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. A UTI is caused by pathogenic organisms such as bacteria or parasites in any of the structures that makes up the urinary tract. UTIs are more common in women than in men and symptoms can range from strong pain and a need to urinate frequently through to no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

Symptoms will depend on your age, sex and location of the infection – for example, infection of the bladder will present with different symptoms than infection of the urethra, although there are some common symptoms.

Perhaps the most common symptom of a UTI is the frequent need to urinate, accompanied by pain whilst urinating as well as cloudy or pinkish urine due to blood or pus being present. Urine may also have an unpleasant odour and women may also suffer with vaginal discharge, especially if they have an infection of the urethra or a UTI caused by an STD. Lower abdominal pain is common, as is bloating and feeling as though your bladder is full even if you’ve just been to the bathroom. You may also only pass a small amount of urine every time you go to the toilet, even if you feel as though you need to pass more. Pain is common in the lower abdomen in both men and women.

Causes of Urinary Tract Infections

Normal urine is a sterile substance. That means that it is free from bacteria, fungi and viruses. An infection occurs when tiny organisms cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply. The reason that women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections is because their urethra are shorter than men’s and its exit is close to the anus and vagina, which can both be sources of bacteria or pathogens.

Most infections are caused by E. coli, although they can also be caused by a number of other bacteria including: Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, Enterobacter, Proteus, Staphylococcus, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, Serratia and Neisseria. Fungi such as Candida and Cryptococcus could also be responsible for infection, as could various parasites.

In most cases, bacteria travel to the urethra. As soon as bacteria begin to multiply, an infection can occur. Infections can first occur in the urethra, and from there they can travel to the bladder and cause an infection of the bladder. If not treated, bacteria can then travel up the ureters to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection.

Some sexually transmitted diseases can cause urinary tract infections, although these infections tend to be limited to the urethra and the reproductive system. Sexually transmitted infections are easily protected against by using condoms whilst having intercourse, but other infections are not as easily protected against.

A common cause of urinary tract infections is having a catheter placed in the urethra or bladder. Catheters are used in individuals who cannot void their bowels on their own or who are unconscious or critically ill. Bacteria can gather in the catheter, so it is important for hospital staff to be conscientious when it comes to cleaning and changing the catheter.

Women who use diaphragms over other forms of birth control are also more likely to develop a urinary tract infection, particularly if they are not careful with their hygiene habits.

Individuals suffering with diabetes or any other disorder whereby their immune system is depressed, such as cancer, HIV or the AIDs virus are more at risk of urinary tract infections due to the fact that they are not strong enough to fight off bacteria that might not affect people who have a stronger immune system.