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What is it?
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is the infection of the urinary tract, usually caused by microbes. The urinary tract comprises of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra.

Bacteria have been found to be the cause for most of the UTIs, while fungi cause some of them. Viral infections occur rarely and are usually seen in patients who might have undergone organ transplants or suffering from other medical conditions that will weaken the immune system.

Most of the UTIs are known to affect only the urethra and the bladder in the lower tract. But, they can affect the ureters and kidneys too, in the upper tract but they are rare and usually severe.

Symptoms
The Urinary Tract Infections show different symptoms depending on the part of the urinary tract they affect.

  • Lower Tract UTIs: usually affect the urethra and the bladder and the patients suffering from it experience the following symptoms:
    • Burning sensation while urinating
    • Frequent urination with less amount of urine
    • The urgency to urinate is increased
    • Blood in urine
    • Cloudy urine
    • Urine with a colour similar to tea
    • Urine with a strong smell
    • Pelvic pain in women and rectal pain in men
  • Upper Tract UTIs: usually affect the kidneys. In some cases, it can be life-threatening if the bacteria that infected the kidney enter the blood. Patients suffering from upper tract UTIs experience the following symptoms:
    • Upper back and sides have pain and tenderness
    • Chills
    • Fever
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

Diagnosis
The doctor will try to diagnose the condition by first performing a physical examination. The diagnosis will then be confirmed by performing urine tests to determine the microbe that might be responsible.

The urine sample taken from the patient needs to be a ‘clean catch’ sample, which is the urine sample collected from the middle of the urinary system instead of the beginning. This is to avoid the bacteria or yeast present from the skin that can contaminate the sample.

Urinary Tract Infection diagnosis is usually confirmed in the patient if the number of white blood cells in the urine is high. Once confirmed, urine culture is done to determine if the microbe is bacteria or fungi. Special testing is required to determine if a virus is responsible.

If the patient is suffering from recurrent UTIs then the doctor will try to check if there are any abnormalities in the urinary tract by using any of the following diagnostic tests,

  • Ultrasound: creates a clearer image of the urinary tract organs.
    Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP): involves in injecting a dye that will travel through the urinary tract and then X-Rays of the abdomen are taken, as the dye will highlight the urinary tract.
  • Cystoscopy: is the test where the doctor will insert a tube with a camera at one end through the urethra and into the bladder. The doctor will then remove a small piece of the bladder tissue to test it for bladder inflammation or cancer.
  • CT Scan: will help in getting detailed images of the urinary system.

Treatment

The doctor treats an Urinary Tract Infection depending on the cause of the infection.

As bacteria are found to be a major cause of most UTIs, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

If the tests find that fungi caused the infection, the doctor might prescribe antifungals. While if the tests showed the virus as the cause, the doctor would treat it with antiviral medication.

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