Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that involves any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the urethra (Figure 1). As a rule, the further up the tract the infection is located, the more serious it is.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
UTIs are categorised as follows:
* lower UTI--infection and inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) and urethra (urethritis)
* upper UTI--infection and inflammation of the kidneys (pyelonephritis) and ureters. Potentially more serious than a lower UTI because of the possibility of kidney damage.
Urine is normally sterile. Most urinary tract infections are the result of bacteria entering the urethra from the surrounding skin, especially around the anus. The bacterium Eschericia coil, which is routinely found in faeces, is the most common cause of UTI. Other bacteria that may cause UTIs are Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Proteus and Klebsiella. Occasionally a UTI may be caused by a yeast such as Candida abicans. The bacteria stick to the wails of the urethra, multiply and move up into the bladder, where they cause annoying symptoms. If infection spreads upwards in the urinary tract, symptoms are more serious.
The urinary system is structured to help prevent infection. The ureters and the bladder normally prevent urine from backing up towards the kidneys, and the flow of urine from the bladder helps to wash bacteria out of the body.
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