Infection of the urinary tract is characterized by the presence of bacteria, especially Escherichia coli., In the urethra, bladder or kidneys. This condition can evolve with several symptoms, such as pain when urinating and urinary urgency, or being asymptomatic, that is, silent.
This type of infection is quite common in offices and affects both men and women. However, the female sex, due to some anatomical and physiological characteristics typical of women, is much more affected.
In this article we will explain that it is urinary tract infection, its main symptoms and the risks that this disease can cause. Also, learn why urinary tract infection in women is more common than in men. Check out!
What is urinary tract infection?
The human organism has several ways to defend itself from pathogens, such as bacteria. However, due to some flaws it is possible for agents to penetrate the body and cause disease.
This is the case of urinary tract infection, which occurs when bacteria and other agents take the ascending route, that is, they penetrate the vagina or the penis and “go up” towards the urethra and the other components of the urinary tract.
What are the causes of urinary tract infection?
There are several causes of urinary tract infection in women. We will detail some below.
The vagina and penis are naturally free of bacteria. However, poor hygiene or lack of it allows the secretions produced by these regions to accumulate, creating an environment conducive to the growth of bacteria.
The woman has another important risk factor, which is the proximity of the anal area to the vagina. It is important to know that several bacteria live in the intestine, which participate in the digestion process and leave the feces. If hygiene is done in the wrong way, that is, from the anus towards the vagina, there will be contact with bacteria in the stool, which can cause urinary tract infection.
It is for this reason that it is recommended to perform hygiene with a shower of water and, if this is not an option, you should pass the toilet paper only in the anal area and then, with another piece of paper, in the vaginal region.
As mentioned, for the infection to occur it is necessary for the bacteria to rise through the urinary tract. This process is facilitated during sexual intercourse, since the opening of the urethra (channel through which the urine comes out) is more exposed.
In order to avoid urinary tract infection in this case, it is always recommended to urinate after sexual intercourse, in order to clean the urinary tract, and clean the area with soap and water.
The male urethra is long as it runs through the entire penis. Thus, it is more difficult for pathogens to reach the bladder, which is not the case for women, who have an urethra up to three times shorter.
The vagina has natural defenses against bacteria. The mucosa in this region, for example, is rich in a substance called mucin, which makes it difficult for pathogens to adhere. However, hormonal changes can alter mucin production, impairing natural defense.
It is for this reason that urinary tract infection can occur more frequently in adolescence and in the climacteric (transition period between the woman’s reproductive and non-reproductive age, which has menopause as a landmark), phases in which there are relevant hormonal changes.
Lack of hydration
It is essential to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid episodes of urinary tract infection. This is because the urine, when passing through the components of the urinary tract, carries with it possible bacteria that have entered the vagina or the penis. However, those who consume little fluid produce little urine, allowing bacteria to rise.
There are some fungi present in the vaginal flora, which is natural. Candidiasis arises when there is an overgrowth of the Candida fungus, causing symptoms such as itching in the vagina, whitish discharge and irritation in the region.
When left untreated, candidiasis can cause urinary tract infection. This is because the woman holds the urine due to the burning sensation that her passage through the vaginal region causes. In addition, the accumulation of discharge is a favorable environment for the proliferation of bacteria.
Some chronic diseases, such as diabetes and kidney stones (kidney stones), encourage the proliferation of bacteria. People with this condition should take special care to prevent recurrent infections.
What are the symptoms of urinary tract infection?
It is important to note that a person with a urinary tract infection will not always present symptoms. In some cases, this condition is only discovered when a urine test is done. When symptoms appear, the most common are:
- burning or pain when urinating;
- urgency to urinate;
- urine with blood or strong smell;
- pelvic pain;
- increased frequency of urination;
- urinary incontinence.
How to diagnose urinary tract infection?
When the person has a clinic suggestive of urinary tract infection, that is, several symptoms, the diagnosis can be made without a urine test. However, when symptoms are nonspecific, such as malaise and fever, it is necessary to order an examination to check for the presence of bacteria in the urine.
A positive test is one with colonies of bacteria, numerous cells (defense cells of the body) and positive nitrite.
How to treat urinary tract infection?
When the infection is caused by bacteria, the doctor must prescribe antibiotics. It is important to take them at the correct time and for the period indicated. After all, even when symptoms subside it is still possible to have bacteria in the urinary tract.
What are the risks of urinary tract infection?
When the low infection (of the urethra and bladder) is not treated, the bacteria continue to ascend in the urinary tract, reaching the kidneys. Thus, a more serious and complex infection, called pyelonephritis, occurs. This infection, called discharge, can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, disrupting its function.
As seen, simple hygiene measures and abundant fluid intake are already sufficient to prevent most cases of urinary tract infection. However, if you suffer from recurrent episodes, it is essential to seek help from a specialist doctor (urologist). This is because it is necessary to find out what the cause is, what could be a kidney stone or a malformation of the urinary tract, for example.