Urine is usually sterile, which means it does not contain bacteria, viruses or fungi.
A UTI can occur when a microorganism enters the urinary system through the urethra.
Most infections are caused by escherichia coli (E. coli), a digestive tract bacterium that lives in the colon (large intestine), and spreads to the urethra from the anus.
Other microorganisms, such as chlamydia and mycoplasma, can cause UTIs that are usually restricted to the urethra and the reproductive system. Since these microorganisms are sexually transmitted, both partners will require treatment when infections occur.
What are the risk factors for UTIs?
The risk for UTI increases if you:
Have structural abnormalities of the urinary system, urinary stones and bladder obstruction.
Havediabetes, as your urine contains higher amounts of sugar.
Have sexual intercourse.
Are a man with anenlarged prostate, as the condition makes it difficult to empty your bladder completely.
Are a woman, as women have a shorter urethra, allowing bacteria to reach the bladder more easily. The risk is usually highest if you are sexually active or after menopause, due to the dry state of the urethra and vagina. 1 in 5 women develops a UTI during her lifetime.
Are pregnant. Changes to your urinary tract and immunologic changes during pregnancy can increase your risk of UTI.
Do not empty your bladder completely (urinary stasis).
What are the complications and related diseases of UTIs?
Left untreated, UTIs can lead to:
Kidney damage if cystitis (bladder infection) is not treated and the infection spreads to the kidneys.
Premature birth andhypertension (high blood pressure) if you have a UTI during pregnancy.
Recurrent infections. The risk is higher if you experience more than 4 UTIs within a year.
Complications in urethral narrowing in men, if you had recurrent urethritis.
Septicaemia (serious blood infection) if the bacteria enters your bloodstream.
How do you prevent UTIs?
Preventive measures, especially in women with recurrent infections, can be taken to reduce the risk of developing UTIs. These include:
Drinking plenty of water.
Drinking cranberry juice or taking vitamin C to increase the acidity of your urine and reduce bacterial growth.
Not holding your bladder for a long time and urinating when needed.