Urinary infections can affect practically the whole urinary tract. Urinary tract consists of two kidneys filtering blood and producing urine. The urine flows into renal pelvices and through ureters into the urinary bladder. The connection between a ureter and urinary bladder is anatomically shaped to prevent a reflux of urine back into the ureters. The lower part of urinary bladder is equipped with a muscle sphincter. When relaxed, the sphincter allows the urine to flow into urethra and through urethra out of the body. The urethra in males has a close anatomical relationship with prostate and it is longer than female urethra.
Urinary infections are a common problem. The most common infectious agents are bacteria living around the anus and genitals. Women are more affected than men, it is probably due to shorter urethra, which allows the bacteria an easier way to the urinary bladder. Close anatomical relationship between vagina and urethra is also important as women get often infected during sexual intercourse. Increased risk of urinary infections is in people with weakened immunity, for example diabetics. The diabetics are also more threatened by fact that sugar in urine is a welcomed food for bacterial cells. Greater occurrence of urinary infections is reported in hospitalized patients with urinary catheters that bypasses the bladder sphincter and may be easily colonized by bacteria.
The infections frequently occur in situation where there is a disruption of urine flow. Accumulation of urine increases risk of bacterial colonization. Such urine accumulation may be a result of congenital defect of the urinary tract or due obstruction by enlarged prostate, by a locally growing tumor or a urinary stone.
The symptoms of urinary infections include frequent urge to urinate, painful burning during urination and feeling of incomplete urination. People often complain about an unpleasant abdominal pain in the lower abdomen and sometimes even about blood in urine. The urine also frequently contains proteins but this pathology is not perceived by the patient but proven by urinalysis.
Simple urinary tract infection may be complicated by kidney infection (pyelonephritis). It occurs when the bacteria travel upwards toward the kidney. Pyelonephritis is a serious condition manifesting with high fever, back and loin pain and strong headache. It can cause acute kidney failure or septic condition (when the bacteria enter the bloodstream).
Urinary infections may be prevented by adequate hydration (about 2 liters a day or more when sweating) to maintain the urine flow and to prevent the spread of bacteria. Cranberries and urological tea may be also efficient in prevention and treatment of mild infections.
The therapy should focus on preventing dehydration and administration of antibiotics. The type of used antibiotic depends on outcome of microbiological examination of the urine. When there is an underlying factor (see Causes) causing recurrent infections, it is necessary to solve it as well.