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What is a Urinary Tract Infection

In order to understand a UTI, the first thing to do is understand the urinary tract. The primary purpose of the urinary tract is to rid the body of urine. It’s the roadway for urine to exit the body.

From the “inside to outside” he urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. A UTI is an infection (in most cases E. Coli) in any part of the urinary tract.

In most cases however, this is a broad definition of urinary tract infections; many authors prefer to use more specific terms that localize the urinary tract infection to the major segment involved such as urethritis (when the urethra is infected), cystitis (also known as a bladder infection), ureter infection (for some reason, this is very uncommon), and pyelonephritis (kidney infection – a serious condition to be taken seriously).

Other structures that eventually connect to or share close anatomic proximity to the urinary tract (for example, prostate, epididymis, and vagina) are sometimes included in the discussion of UTIs because they may either cause or be caused by UTIs. Technically, they are not UTIs and will be only briefly mentioned in this article.

UTIs are much more common in women than men. Each year about 8.3 million people visit their doctor to treat a UTI. Occasionally a UT will go un-noticed but normally a UTIs can cause problems that range from pain and/or burning when urinating (dysuria) to organ damage and even death.

Your kidneys on average produce about 1.5 quarts of urine each day. They help to maintain the proper balance of potassium, sodium, water and other electrolytes as well as the removal of waste products (urine). Additionally the kidneys produce a hormone that aids in the formation of red blood cells. These critical body functions are why it’s so important to maintain proper urinary tract health.

Some researchers believe UTIs are not transmitted from person to person, other people dispute this and suggest UTIs may be contagious and recommend sex partners avoid intercourse until the UTI has cleared. However there is little or dispute that UTIs caused by sexually transmitted disease(STD) organisms; these infections (such as gonorrhea, chlamydia) are easily transmitted between sex partners and are very contagious.

What Causes A UTI

Nearly 80 percent of all UTI’s are caused by Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) bacteria strains commonly found in the colon. However that’s not the only bacteria that can cause a urinary tract infection. Bacteria such as Klebsiella, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, staphylococcus. Even though these other bacteria can cause a UTI, they are significantly less frequent than E. Coli.

There are even some fungi that can cause a UTI. Candida and Cryptococcus are a couple fungi that have been known to cause a UTI. As if the bacteria and fungi weren’t enough, occasionally a UTI can be caused by a parasite such as Trichomonas or Schistosoma. Schistosoma causes other problems such as bladder infection as part of a complicated infection. However, in the US, most infections are caused by gram-negative bacteria, mostly with E. Coli as the culprit.

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