Urinary Tract Infection: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

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Urinary Tract INfection

Urinary Tract Infection: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

Swetha Prasanna 23 Jun 2022

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more prevalent in women. Given their shorter urethras, the risk of UTIs is more in women. However, UTIs can occur in men too.

According to Medical News Today, UTIs affect a 3percent of men globally. Additionally, the risk of a urinary infection for men over 50 is high. In the USA alone, 4 million doctor visits happen because of UTIs in men and women.

This article educates about urinary tract infection, causes, symptoms and prevention measures.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

The urethra is a tube in the excretory system of humans. It is responsible for carrying the urine and excreting it. When bacteria enter this tube (urethra), it causes an infection termed a urinary tract infection.

What causes UTI?

The human urinary system is naturally defensive from external bacteria. It can fight and protect itself up to a certain level. However, when the natural defence mechanism of the urinary system fails, it can lead to the growth of bacteria which cause UTIs.

The primary cause of UTI is Escherichia coli. It is a naturally present bacteria in the human body around the rectum, vagina, and anus. However, this can lead to UTIs in men when the bacteria enter the urethra from the anus or external sources.

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Types of UTI

Depending on the part of the urinary system that is infected, there are two types of UTIs:

  • Upper tract UTI: Occurs in ureters or kidneys.
  • Lower tract UTI: Occurs in bladder, urethra, and prostate.

The lifestyle causes of UTIs are:

  • Being immobile for long periods
  • Inadequate consumption of liquids
  • Poor hygiene before and after sexual intercourse.


Furthermore, the most common causes of urinary tract infections include:


The female urethra is shorter and closer to the inner urinary parts. It increases the risk of UTIs in women. Similarly, any abnormalities in the male urinary anatomy can demand surgical intervention to clear UTIs.

Hormonal changes:

Fluctuations in hormones, notably after menopause, can increase the risk of UTI. When estrogen levels reduce, the female urinary system becomes more susceptible to infections.

Sex with multiple partners:

The risk of urinary infections increases with the number of sexual partners and or anal sex. However, the chances of spreading UTI from a woman to a man are rare. The cause of UTI in men after sexual intercourse might be due to the bacteria already present in the body, but not because of sex with infected women.

Birth control practices:

Diaphragms can cause UTIs in women, while contraceptive spermicide can trigger UTIs in men.

Compromised immune system:

Disorders such as diabetes that affect the immune system can decrease the body’s natural defensive mechanism and cause urinary infections.

Additionally, UTIs can occur due to:

  • Previous history of UTI
  • Pregnancy
  • Catheterization
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Being uncircumcised
  • Kidney stones, bladder stones

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What does a UTI look like?

Depending on the infection severity, the symptoms of UTI may vary from one individual to another. Here are commonly sighted symptoms of UTI:

  • Dysuria – the burning sensation while passing urine
  • An urgency to pass urine
  • Leakage of urine or urinary dribbling
  • Slow, irregular stream of urine
  • Inability to start urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Urine with abnormal color and or odor
  • Lower abdominal pain

When the infection advances and spreads to the kidneys and upper urinary tract, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and back pain are also visible.

Risks due to UTIs

UTIs are treated effectively with antibiotics. If left untreated, UTIs can pose the following risks:

  • Recurrent infections are more visible in women.
  • Acute kidney infection/damage in rare cases.

How are UTIs diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose UTIs through physical examination and laboratory tests of urine. In cases where prostate enlargement may be a possible cause, doctors may perform a digital rectal examination to feel for the enlarged prostate.


Tips to prevent UTIs

While UTIs can happen due to various medical conditions, lifestyle care can prevent them to a large extent.

Increase fluid intake:

Consume more water and healthy fluids such as coconut water, buttermilk, and fresh fruit juices. Reduce consumption of tea and coffee as they may irritate the bladder.

Maintain hygiene before and after sex:

Urinating and cleaning the genital area with plenty of plain water before and after sex minimizes the risk of sexually prone UTIs.

Include more probiotics:

Fermented foods are rich in lactobacillus bacteria that protect the urinary tract from harmful bacteria. Include foods such as curd, yogurt, idli, dosa, dhokla, kefir, sauerkraut, or tempeh in your diet to prevent UTIs. Additionally, you can also use probiotic supplements under a doctor’s guidance.

Refrain from using vaginal deodorants:

The chemicals and fragrances in vaginal deodorants can cause an imbalance in the pH level in the area around it. It can create an environment that supports harmful bacteria.

Opt for alternate birth control measures:

If your doctor finds that the current birth control practices trigger UTIs, you can check for other convenient options.

Urinate as and when you must:

Holding on to urine can increase the harmful bacteria in the bladder. Empty the bladder as and when you feel like urinating.

Wipe front to back:

While using toilet paper to clean genitals after using the washroom, wipe from front to back. It prevents the exposure of the urinary tract to harmful E.coli that is present in the anus part.


Urinary tract infections are common in certain stages of life – pregnancy, menopause, and post-surgeries. With lifestyle changes, early detection, and treatment, it is possible to lead a life free from the side effects of UTIs.

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