Pathophysiology of UTI – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment


A UTI or a urinary tract infection is an infection caused to any of the organs in the urinary system, i.e. the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. Mostly UTI infections affect the lower part of the urinary tract, i.e. the urethra and the bladder.

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Urinary tract infections in women are more common compared to men. The infection that affects the bladder can be painful and uncomfortable. But when the UTI moves over the kidneys, it can cause major medical complications.

Pathophysiology of UTI

The pathophysiology of UTI refers to the infection to various parts of the urinary system like the  urethra, ureters, bladder and kidneys. A UTI can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, but the pathophysiology of a UTI for each organism remains the same.

The bacteria and other microorganisms enter the urinary system through the blood stream or contact with skin during urination and enter the body via the urethra.  Then it spreads to the other organs of the urinary system.

Sexually active lifestyle especially  for a woman can put her at risk to UTI.  Congenital abnormalities and diseases like kidney stones can also put a person at risk of urinary tract infection. Enlargement of prostate in elderly men can prevent smooth urine flow, causing infection.  Diabetics tend to have weake immune system which can put them at risk to UTI.

UTI symptoms

Here are the symptoms of UTI –

It is also possible that a patient may be wrongly diagnosed as UTI.

UTI Types

There are different types of urinary tract infection, depending on the organ in the urinary system that is affected. These are as follows –

Depending of the urinary system organ that is affected, it can result in different types of UTI with specific symptoms. They are as follows:

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  1. If the UTI affects the urethritis, a person may experience burning sensation while passing urine
  2. If the UTI affects the bladder,  this condition is known as cystitis and can cause symptoms like painful and frequent urination, bloody urine, pressure in the pelvis and pain in the lower abdomen.
  3. When the urinary tract infection affects the kidneys, the condition is called acute pyelonephritis which causes symptoms like pain the sides or the flank as well as in the upper back, high fever, chills and shivering, nausea and vomiting.

Causes of UTI

  • UTI is caused due to the intrusion of bacteria into the urinary tract  through the urethera and then to the bladder, where they thrive.  In fact, the urinary tract is designed so well that it does not allow the entry of microorganisms easily.  But at times, due to improper hygiene and other factors, bacteria can gain entry and cause UTI.
  • Urethritis is caused when gastrointestinal bacteria in the anus moves to the urethra.  In women, as the vaginal is close to the urethra, sexual transmitted diseases like Chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhea can cause more complexities.
  • UTI in women is more common than men, and affects the urethra and the bladder.
  • E.coli bacteria cause Cystitis which affects the gastrointestinal tract. This condition happens mostly due to sexual intercourse but it can also happen in cases of people who are sexually inactive.  The genital structure of women is such that distance between the urethra and anus and urethral orifice and the bladder is very short; which puts them at high risk for Cystitis.

UTI risk factors

The different risk factors that increase the chances of people to develop an UTI is as follows

  1. Women are high risk due to the reasons mentioned above
  2. Females who use spermicidal agents and diaphragms as a birth control method are also at risk of UTI.
  3. Women who are post menopause are at risk to urinary tract infection.
  4. Sexually active females are prone to UTI
  5. Diabetes and other disorders  can suppress the immune system rendering it vulnerable to infections like UTI
  6. Abnormalities in the urinary tract is a reason
  7. Kidney stones, enlarged prostate and blockage in the urinary tract can block urine in the bladder and cause risk of UTI

Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection

Depending on the condition and type, there can be various ways to administer treatment for UTI

  • Simple infections can be treated with antibiotics that have to be consumed for a certain period as per the physician’s prescription, till the symptoms easy away. Pain killer can treat burning sensation in the urinary tract and pain while passing urine. Antibiotics like co-amoxiclav orciprofloxcin can be given under medical consultation unless a woman is pregnant. If she is pregnant, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic called cefalexin. These antibiotics can make a person drowsy, so it is better to avoid drinking or working too hard when you are taking them.
  • Severe cases of UTI can be treated by hospitalization and intravenous drug administration
  • Recurrent infections may need longer course of antibiotic treatment.  Post menopausal women may need vaginal estrogen therapy. Home urine tests can prevent continual cases of UTIUTI is preventable with a disciplined and healthy life style.
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