Causes and Risk Factors of UTI

UTI (urinary tract infection) is infection of any part or whole of the urinary system from kidneys to urethra, most commonly by bacteria. Being closer to the outside environment, lower UTI (that involve bladder and/or urethra) is common form. Majority of UTIs are non-serious, but troublesome. Sometimes, UTIs may cause permanent damage to kidneys or other structures of urinary system, hence, UTI should be viewed seriously and managed appropriately. Highly effective antibiotics are available for treatment of UTI.

Causes of UTI:

Majority of UTIs start when bacteria gain entry to urinary tract via urethra and start multiplying in the urinary bladder. Rarely, UTIs may be blood borne and gain entry to urinary tract from blood stream directly. Sometime viruses may be responsible for UTI, e.g. herpes virus may cause UTI, in patients suffering the disease or get it from partner.

Cystitis or infection of bladder is the commonest form of UTI. Normally there are large number of normal beneficial commensals in the bladder, which prevent growth of pathogenic bacteria. Sometimes this defense mechanism fails to prevent growth of pathogenic bacteria and UTI develops. Most common bacteria causing UTI is Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is commonly found in gastrointestinal tract and gain entry from there. Other bacteria include Neisseria, clebsiella etc. Unhygienic personal conditions, sexual intercourse (e.g. honeymoon cystitis) etc. are common causes of UTI.

Risk factors of UTI:

There are some risk factors involved, which increase the risk of getting UTI. Some of the risk factors are modifiable, but some factors are not modifiable. You are at greater risk to develop UTI if you have any one or combination of the following risk factors:

  • Female sex: being female is perhaps the greatest risk factor of UTI (unfortunately a non-modifiable factor). Women have shorter and straighter urethra in compare to men and the urethral opening also very close to potential source of infection, i.e. anus. In fact, gastrointestinal tract is the commonest source of infection in UTI. Due to shorter, straighter and closer proximity to anus, bacteria gain entry to urethra easily in females and travel upstream to bladder where they can easily multiply to cause UTI. Many women experience UTI more than once a year.
  • Sexual activity: being sexually active increase risk of UTI, especially in those females with multiple sexual partners. If women are sexually less active the risk of UTI is reduced.
  • Anatomical defect in urinary tract: any abnormality in urinary tract increase risk of UTI. In presence of anatomical abnormality, males are also at greater risk of UTI. In fact, repeated UTI among males is indication of anatomical abnormality in the urinary tract, because males usually do not suffer from UTI frequently.
  • Blockage in urinary system due to stone (in ureter, urethra, bladder or kidneys) or stricture (in ureters or in urethra) increase risk of UTI. Prostatic enlargement that inhibit free urine outflow also increase risk of UTI.
  • Incomplete voiding resulting in large volume of residual urine after urination can increase risk of UTI. This may occur due to defect in innervation of bladder trigon, which is responsible for outflow of urine from bladder. Large residual urine may act as medium for bacterial growth.
  • Use of some contraceptive methods such as use of diaphragm or spermicidal jelly, increase risk of UTI.
  • Weak immune system due to diabetes or other medical conditions or due to use of immune suppressant medication may increase risk of UTI.
  • Post-menopausal women are at greater risk of developing UTI, due to low estrogen level, which causes changes in urinary system and make vulnerable for UTI.
  • Hospitalized patients given urinary catheter to urinate are at greater risk of UTI. Some patients may have to use catheter for urination, because of neurological problem, are at risk of UTI.

Similar articles: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/basics/risk-factors/con-20037892

 

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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