Your body would be flooded with toxins if it weren’t for your urinary system. Your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra work together continuously to filter your blood and expel waste from your body in the form of urine.1 Your urinary system is delicate and can become infected despite its defense mechanism.2 And getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) is no walk in the park. Even the most simple and natural act of peeing is enough to make your eyes tear up. Here we can have a look at the causes of UTI.
Causes Of Urinary Tract Infection
UTI is caused when microorganisms, such as bacteria, virus, or fungi, bacteria being the most common, infect different parts of the urinary system.3 The urethra serves as a connection between the urinary system and the outside of the body and microbes can enter through it. Infection of the kidneys and ureters are much more severe than the infection of the bladder and urethra.
Causes Of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
The lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and urethra. The skin around your urethra may have bacteria, such as Escherichia Coli, gonococcus, and Chlamydia trachomatis, which can easily enter the urethra and infect it. Urination usually flushes these bacteria out, but in some cases, they can still persist and cause an inflammation of the urethra, which is known as urethritis.45 If the actual cause of urethritis cannot be determined it is known as non-specific urethritis.
Bladder infection, cystitis, is caused when bacteria reach the bladder through the urethra.6 They stick to the tread-like structures of the bladder (pili) and cause them to get irritated and inflamed. In most of the cases, it is caused by the bacteria E. Coli, but you may get cystitis as a result of the use of certain drugs, sexual intercourse, radiation, and hypersensitivity.
Causes of Upper Urinary Tract Infection
The kidneys and the ureters make up the upper urinary tract, but an infection of the upper urinary tract mostly affects the kidneys. Pyelonephritis, kidney infection, may affect only one or both kidneys. Usually, viruses or bacteria, mostly E.Coli, reach the kidneys by ascending the urinary system through the urethra, but in some cases, they might be transported to the kidneys via the bloodstream.7
Differences Between Men And Women Contracting UTIs
Both men and women have a risk of developing UTIs, but there are a few differences between how men contract them and how women contract them.
Causes Of Urinary Tract Infection In Women
UTIs are more common in women than in men.8 According to the National Institutes of Health and American Urological Association, a woman’s lifetime chances of contracting at least 1 UTI range from 40% to over 50%.9 Here are a few reasons that make women susceptible to UTIs.
1. Their Anatomy
Cystitis is quite common in women because their urethra is short and is close to the anus. It is easier for E. Coli, a bacteria present in the bowels, to enter the urethra and reach the bladder. The infection is usually not very severe and mild cases often subside on their own in a few days. Cystitis should be treated by a medical professional if its symptoms last more than 2 days, or it might spread to the kidneys, resulting in pyelonephritis.10 Without proper treatment, pyelonephritis may cause permanent kidney scars, which can eventually lead to kidney failure.11
2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can easily cause UTIs in women due to the short distance between the urethra and the vagina.12 13 So, when women develop a lower urinary tract infection, they should get it checked for an STD to be on the safe side.
During pregnancy, a woman’s urinary tract becomes dilated due to which it is easy for bacteria to ascend the urinary system through the urethra. The growing size of the uterus also prevents the bladder from emptying fully, making it a breeding ground for microbes.14 Pregnant women should get screened regularly for UTIs.
4. Certain Forms Of Birth Control
Using diaphragms may slow the flow of urination, allowing bacteria to grow. Spermicides, unlubricated or spermicidal condoms may cause skin irritation, which allows bacteria to invade and cause infection.15
5. Feminine Products
You should change your tampons and sanitary napkins at frequent intervals, even when the flow is less. These products trap moisture and make it a breeding ground for various types of bacteria.16 Thongs can easily transfer bacteria from the anus to the urethra, so wear cotton underwear instead as it does not trap moisture and prevents the build up of bacteria.
Post-menopausal women have a higher risk of UTIs because they may suffer from urinary incontinence, have some grade of cystocele, or have difficulty in emptying their bladder fully.17
Women Of What Age Are Most Affected By UTIs?
Once you develop a UTI, treating it does not mean that you can sit back and relax because there are chances of it recurring. About 1 in 4 women develops a recurrence of urinary tract infections.20
Causes Of Urinary Tract Infection In Men
Even through the male urinary system is more protected from infection than its female counterpart, it can still get infected due to certain factors.
1. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Chlamydia trachomatis, Mycoplasma genitalium, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Trichomonas vaginalis, anaerobes, Herpes simplex virus (HSV), and adenovirus are sexually transmitted microbes that cause urethritis in men.2122 Sexually active men, who have developed UTI, should abstain from intercourse until their UTI is treated completely.
The most common cause of UTI in men is prostatitis, an infection of the prostate gland that causes it to enlarge in size.23 An enlarged prostate prevents the bladder from emptying completely, due to which any bacteria present in the residual urine in the bladder do not get flushed out like they normally would.24 Instead, they multiply and cause infection.
Men Of What Age Are Most Affected By UTIs?
The incidence of UTIs is high is sexually active men aged 18-24. It decreases during middle age and increases again in older men above the age of 65 years.25
Other Causes Of UTIs In Women And Men
Being constipated makes you susceptible to UTIs as it prevents your bladder from emptying fully.26
Bacteria from your bowels can easily reach your urethra when you suffer from diarrhea, resulting in UTIs.27
People with diabetes are prone to UTIs because of immune system impairments, improper metabolic control, and incomplete bladder emptying.28
4. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can obstruct the flow of urine due to which it may be difficult for you to empty your bladder fully.29
People with acquired immunodeficiency disease syndrome/human immunodeficiency virus have a high risk of contracting UTIs because their immune system will not be able to fight infections effectively.30
6. Urological Abnormalities
Urological abnormalities are often associated with UTIs that are complicated.31 Treatment of such patients is individualized to minimize complications and risks of future infections.
What Should You Do If You Are At Risk OF UTIs?
Your risk of contracting UTIs is high if you have any of the causes mentioned. If you notice any persistent symptom of a UTI, get it checked by a medical professional to prevent it from becoming worse. You can also try some natural remedies to treat lower urinary tract infections. A little extra effort in maintaining personal hygiene will go a long way in preventing UTIs from occurring in the first place.
|↑1||The Urinary Tract & How It Works. National Institute Of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.|
|↑2||Kaye, D. Host defense mechanisms in the urinary tract. The Urologic clinics of North America. 1975.|
|↑3||Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). PubMed Health Glossary.|
|↑4, ↑6||Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection — UTI) in Adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑5||Urethritis. PubMed Health Glossary.|
|↑7, ↑11||Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑8||Magliano, Enrico, Vittorio Grazioli, Loredana Deflorio, Antonia Isabella Leuci, Roberto Mattina, Paolo Romano, and Clementina Elvezia Cocuzza. Gender and age-dependent etiology of community-acquired urinary tract infections. The Scientific World Journal. 2012.|
|↑9||How many women are affected or at risk for UTIs & UI? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.|
|↑10||Cystitis. National Health Service.|
|↑12||Chang, Po-Chih, Yu-Chao Hsu, Ming-Li Hsieh, Shih-Tsung Huang, Hsin-Chieh Huang, and Yu Chen. A pilot study on Trichomonas vaginalis in women with recurrent urinary tract infections. Biomedical Journal.|
|↑13||Shapiro, Tara, Mark Dalton, John Hammock, Robert Lavery, John Matjucha, and David F. Salo. The prevalence of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted disease in women with symptoms of a simple urinary tract infection stratified by low colony count criteria. Academic emergency medicine. 2005.|
|↑14||Susam Tucker Blackburn. Maternal, Fetal, & Neonatal Physiology: A Clinical Perspective. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2007.|
|↑15||What Causes UTIs and UI? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.|
|↑16||Das, Padma, Kelly K. Baker, Ambarish Dutta, Tapoja Swain, Sunita Sahoo, Bhabani Sankar Das, Bijay Panda et al. Menstrual hygiene practices, WASH access and the risk of urogenital infection in women from Odisha, India. PloS one. 2015.|
|↑17||Raz, Raul. Urinary tract infection in postmenopausal women. Korean journal of urology. 2011.|
|↑18||Urinary tract infection – children. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑19||Weir, M., and J. Brien. “Adolescent urinary tract infections.” Adolescent medicine (Philadelphia, Pa.) 11, no. 2 (2000): 293-313.|
|↑20||Franco, Anna Virginia M. “Recurrent urinary tract infections.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology 19, no. 6 (2005): 861-873.|
|↑21||Moi, Harald, Karla Blee, and Patrick J. Horner. “Management of non-gonococcal urethritis.” BMC infectious diseases 15, no. 1 (2015): 294.|
|↑22||Khatib, N., C. Bradbury, V. Chalker, G. C. K. W. Koh, Erasmus Smit, S. Wilson, and J. Watson. “Prevalence of Trichomonas vaginalis, Mycoplasma genitalium and Ureaplasma urealyticum in men with urethritis attending an urban sexual health clinic.” International journal of STD & AIDS 26, no. 6 (2015): 388-392.|
|↑23||Steven A. Kaplan, Kevin T. McVary. Male Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. John Wiley & Sons. 2014.|
|↑24||J. Curtis Nickel. Prostatitis. Canadian Urological Association Journal. 2011.|
|↑25||Rowe, Theresa A., and Manisha Juthani-Mehta. Urinary tract infection in older adults. Aging health. 2013.|
|↑26||O’Regan, Sean, and Salam Yazbeck. “Constipation: a cause of enuresis, urinary tract infection and vesicoureteral reflux in children.” Medical hypotheses 17, no. 4 (1985): 409-413.|
|↑27||Allerberger, Franz J., Manfred P. Dierich, Arno Ebner, Michael R. Keating, James M. Steckelberg, K. W. Pauline, and John P. Anhalt. “Urinary tract infection caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella: report of 30 cases.” Urologia internationalis 48, no. 4 (1992): 395-400.|
|↑28||Nitzan, Orna, Mazen Elias, Bibiana Chazan, and Walid Saliba. “Urinary tract infections in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: review of prevalence, diagnosis, and management.” Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity: targets and therapy 8 (2015): 129.|
|↑29||Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis). National Institute Of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.|
|↑30||Omoregie, R., and N. O. Eghafona. “Urinary tract infection among asymptomatic HIV patients in Benin City, Nigeria.” British journal of biomedical science 66, no. 4 (2009): 190-193.|
|↑31||Nicolle, L. E. “Complicated urinary tract infection in adults.” Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology 16, no. 6 (2005): 349-360.|