Understanding Urinary Tract Infections -- the Basics
What Are Urinary Tract Infections?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections in the body's urinary system -- the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. In the kidneys, the infection is called pyelonephritis; in the bladder, it is called cystitis.
Urinary tract infections are common in women. Children with UTIs may show different symptoms than adults.
Am I at Risk for a Urinary Tract Infection?
People with a higher risk of developing urinary tract infections include:
- People with conditions that affect the bladder's nerve supply (including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and spinal cord injuries)
- Older adults
- Pregnant women
- People who have any kind of obstruction blocking the passage of urine, such as a tumor, kidney stone, or an enlarged prostate
- Those who use a contraceptive diaphragm or spermicide for birth control
- People who use a catheter, a tube placed into the bladder to drain urine from the bladder into a bag outside of the body
- Men who engage in anal intercourse, who have HIV infection, or who have never been circumcised.
Most of the risk factors listed also increase the chance that a simple bladder infection may quickly become to a more serious kidney infection, or to sepsis (an infection that has entered the bloodstream). Pregnant women with kidney infections have a greater chance of delivering their babies prematurely.