The urinary tract is a medical term used to describe the part of the urinary system comprised of the ureter (tube connecting the kidneys with the bladder), the bladder itself and also the urethra (tube carrying urine away from the bladder to be excreted).
A urinary tract infection (UTI), describes an infection anywhere along this part of the anatomy. The most common part of the urinary tract to suffer an infection is the bladder and this is termed cystitis.
Symptoms vary according to the location of a urinary tract infection and on a case by case basis. Common symptoms can include:
- Pain in the pubic region and accompanying burning pain when urinating
- Increased frequency when urinating
- Strong smelling urine
- Cloudy appearance to the urine
Urinary tract infections are caused when bacteria are able to infiltrate the anatomy of the tract. Normally, this will occur in individuals with certain risk factors:
- Factors which slow the flow or trap urine in the urethra (including an enlarged prostate or urinary stones?
- Use of a catheter
- Recent surgery on the urinary tract
- Sexual activity
A urinary tract infection often gives rise to a characteristic symptoms (referred to above) recognisable by healthcare specialists. In certain cases your specialist may request one or a combination of a urine sample and a blood test.
A urine test is able to pick up red or white blood cells as well as possible bacteria within the urine. In some circumstances a test known as a urine culture may also be requested which refers to growing any bacteria found within a lab. This may help to identify the exact bacterial infection present enabling more effective treatment.
The primary treatment for urinary tract infections is a short course of antibiotics. Although there is debate as to whether keeping well hydrated lowers the risk for developing a urinary tract infection. Keeping well hydrated and more regularly emptying your bladder may make antibiotic treatment more effective and as such this is also recommended.
The specific antibiotic prescribed will depend on the exact symptoms, probable location of the infection and may be directed after a urine culture test result has been analysed.
In circumstances where an individual is contracting repeated urinary tract infections your specialist may recommend a low dose of anti-biotic treatment over a long term period.