Symptoms, Signs And Treatments: What Is Urinary Tract Infection?

Urinary tract infections, while not generally serious, should be recognized and treated before the potential arises for complication.

A urinary tract infection is, as its name might suggest, a bacterial infection of the organs that play part to blood filtration and subsequent urination, namely the urethra, ureters, bladder and/or kidneys. The extent of the infection may vary, and its seriousness will vary accordingly. The most common forms of infection are in the kidneys and the bladder, medically called pyelonephritis and cystitis, respectively. While it can be a nuisance, a urinary tract infection is generally not a serious concern, but as with many infections, lack of treatment can potentially lead to more severe consequences.

The main point of entry to the urinary tract for foreign bodies is the opening of the urethra. The most common causes of infection are fecal cross-contamination and sexual contact. Any unusual contact by the urethra to foreign surfaces or bacteria is also a possible cause of infection, including catheters. Fecal contamination usually occurs in women, due to the close proximity of the female urethra to the anus and the tendency of trace levels of fecal bacteria to reside in and around the vagina. Improper wiping after evacuation can cause urinary tract infection, but the infection may also occur on its own, as a result of no ill hygiene or sexual contact, something that parents should remember when treating a young teen for the condition. Repeat infections may indicate sexual contact or poor hygiene, but may also simply indicate a bodily propensity toward the variety of infection.

While urinary tract infection may be caused by sexual intercourse, it is not considered a sexually-transmitted disease. Bacteria introduced to the urethra that cause the infection are not necessarily causing an infection in another individual, and may in fact be perfectly harmless under other circumstances. Unprotected anal sex puts males at particular risk, and anal sex followed by vaginal sex, even with a condom, may put women at particular risk.


The most noticeable symptom of a urinary tract infection is urinary pain, often accompanied by the urge to urinate when no urine or very little urine is present in the bladder, possibly with the diminished ability to control urine release. These are signs of urinary tract discomfort, caused by the inflammation a bacterial infection can produce. Discoloration or foul odor noticed in urine can also be a sign, as can a heaviness or pressure on the abdomen or organs of the lower back (kidneys). Severe infections may show severe flu-like symptoms, including vomiting.

If experiencing these symptoms, one should visit a doctor immediately, as the earlier an infection is caught the less the likelihood of complication and the easier it may be to treat. A urine specimen will sometimes be collected for analysis, but if you show symptoms of a urinary tract infection without the potential for complication, it is likely that your physician will prescribe a prescription oral antibiotic before the results return. Urine cultures are usually performed for patients with special risk for complication, including the elderly and those with health conditions that may complicate the infection.

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