The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Each of these helps the body get rid of liquid waste. Blood is filtered by the kidneys, which produces urine; urine moves through the ureters from the kidneys to the bladder where the urine is stored until it exits the body through the urethra.When bacteria enter the urinary tract, they are usually removed quickly before any damage can be done, but sometimes the bacteria are strong enough to endure the body’s natural defenses and cause an infection.
Urinary Tract Infection Causes
The urine is usually sterile; however, an infection can occur if bacteria get into the urine and grow. Urinating, or emptying the bladder, typically flushes the bacteria out of the body through the urethra, unless there are too much bacteria. A urinary tract infection usually starts at the opening of the urethra and then moves up the urinary tract.
- The urethra and bladder are most commonly at risk of an infection because they are at the lower end of the urinary tract, when this occurs it is called cystitis.
- Pyelonephritis is a more serious condition which is an infection that moved up the ureters to the kidneys.
Most uncomplicated UTIs (90%) are caused by Escherichia coli. These bacteria are commonly found in and around the bowel and anus. If these bacteria move around the area from the anus to the urethra opening, an infection is likely.
Urinary Tract Infection Causes in Adult
Women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections because of their short urethras where bacteria can pass easily into the bladder. The causes in women include:
- Sex: Bacteria can be pushed into the bladder by way of sexual intercourse. Women who are sexually active are at a higher risk for a UTI than women who are not sexually active. A UTI can develop at any time, but is especially common after the first sexual encounter, or after a period of frequent sexual activity. This is sometimes referred to as “honeymoon cystitis”.
- Birth Control: The normal bacteria environment around the urethra can change with use of birth control methods like diaphragms and spermicides, making an infection more likely.
- Pregnancy: The natural changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy put expectant mothers on the front line for risk of a UTI. Not only are they at risk of cystitis, but also the more serious infection, pyelonephritis. Infections in the bladder and kidneys during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature contractions or birth, or even death of the fetus or newborn.
- Urinary Catheters: People that require a urinary catheter are at a higher risk for a UTI because the catheter is not equipped with the body’s natural immune defenses as the urethra is. Although there are catheters available that are designed to suppress bacterial growth with the use of antibacterial substances, they are not widely used by clinicians for concern of bacterial antibiotic resistance, short-termed effectiveness, and cost.
- Cold, Flu, and Allergy Medications: The more time urine spends inside your bladder, the more time bacteria have to grow, increasing the risk of a UTI. Some medications, like antihistamines can cause your body to retain urine in the bladder. Decongestants have a similar effect, so if you’re particularly prone to UTIs, before reaching for OTC relief, try some natural cold remedies first.
Other Risk Factors
- Medical conditions that cause incomplete bladder emptying such as spinal cord injuries and bladder decompensation post menopause
- Suppressed immune systems like that of an HIV/AIDS or diabetic patient
- Immunosuppressant medications like chemotherapy for cancer
- Men over 60 years of age are at a higher risk UTIs, as aging men tend to develop enlarged prostates that can result in slow and incomplete bladder emptying. Men and women over 60 are seeing a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as people in this age group use condoms less than younger age groups. Urinary tract infection causes also include STDs.
- Other causes and risk factors include a family history of UTIs and bladder infections, diabetes, constipation, and being uncircumcised.
Causes in Children
Children are not immune to the risk of urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infection causes in children include:
- Structural and/or functional abnormalities in the urinary tract such as a blockage in the urinary tract, or a malformed kidney can increase the risk of UTIs in children.
- Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), a condition in which there is a reflux or backward flow of urine from the bladder to the kidneys up the ureters, is present at birth and 30-50% of children presenting a UTI are diagnosed with it.
- Poor hygiene habits, especially while using the toilet can increase a child’s risk of UTIs.
Children can also contract a UTI in the bath, as some bubble baths and soaps can irritate the urethra. Also, children who have a family history of UTIs are at a higher risk.
Prevention is quite essential in daily life since you’ve known most of the urinary tract infection causes. Antibiotic therapy will get rid of your urinary tract infection, but there are also lifestyle changes and healthy habits you can adopt to help prevent UTIs.
- Eating, Diet, and Nutrition: Drinking a lot of fluid, especially water, is essential to constantly flushing your system of bacteria. 6 to 8-ounces glasses of water daily is the recommended amount.
- Bathroom Habits: As mentioned earlier, bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder for too long, so urinate often and as soon as you feel the urge. Flush away bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex by urinating immediately after. Wipe from front to back after using the toilet to prevent bacteria from a bowel movement from getting into the urethra.
- Clothing: Wear loose fitting clothes and cotton underwear to keep dry the area around the urethra. Tight clothes and material like nylon can trap moisture and promote bacterial growth.
- Birth Control: The use of a diaphragm and spermicides can increase the risk of UTIs in women. Trying a new form of birth control such as lubricated condoms without spermicide is advised for women who are prone to UTIs.