Reviewed by Dr Jonah Mink, April 21'
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E.coli) entering the urinary tract.
The urinary tract consists of two parts: the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract. The upper urinary tract includes the kidneys and the ureters; the lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and urethra.
The bacteria that cause a UTI first pass through the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the body. They then begin to multiply in the bladder.
When this happens, the bacteria can take hold and cause a full-scale infection. If a UTI is left untreated, it can spread to the ureters and kidneys.
UTIs are often given different names, depending on which part of the urinary system they affect, including:
Cystitis, referring to a bladder infection
Urethritis, referring to a urethra infection
Pyelonephritis, referring to a kidney infection
UTIs are more common in women than men because women have a shorter urethra which is close to the anus. This means bacteria can easily travel from the gastrointestinal tract to the bladder, increasing the likelihood of contracting a UTI.
How do you get a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria overcome the body’s defences in the urinary tract.
As a result, it can affect the kidneys, bladder and the tubes that run between them.
People of any age and gender can contract a UTI. That said, women are more likely to develop UTIs than men because they have a shorter urethra. This means that bacteria don’t have to travel very far to reach and infect a woman’s bladder.
The following factors can increase the likelihood of developing a UTI:
Holding in urine
Not drinking enough water
Sexual intercourse can displace bacteria from the vagina into the urethra, which is why you should make a habit of passing urine after sex
Poor personal hygiene
Using feminine hygiene products, such as douches, sprays and creams
Having baths rather than showers
A suppressed immune system
Suffering from kidney stones
Having a urinary catheter
Urinary tract procedures
Blocked flow of urine
Long periods of immobility
Heavy use of antibiotics, which can detrimentally affect the bowel and urinary tract
Using specific types of contraceptives, such as diaphragms and spermicides, which change your vaginal pH