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What Causes Urinary Tract Irritation or Infection?
Urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra with the kidneys being the key element of the system. The kidneys remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine, keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood, and produce a hormone that aids in the formation of red blood cells. Narrow tubes called ureters carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder where it is stored until being emptied via the urethra.
The average adult passes approximately a quart and a half of urine daily. Normal urine is sterile (free from bacteria, viruses, and fungi). Eighty-five percent of urinary tract infections are cause by E. Coli, a bacterium normally found in the intestines. Women are more prone to urinary tract infections than men due to the proximity of the anus, vagina, and urethra and also because of the short length of the female urethra which allows for easy transmission of bacteria from the anus to the bladder. In males, bacteria can reach the bladder either by ascending through the urethra or by migrating from an infected prostate gland. While bladder infections are relatively common in women, bladder infections in men may signal a more serious problem, such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland).
Any abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine (such as kidney stones) can set the stage for an infection. Those with diabetes are at a higher risk of a urinary tract infections because of changes in their immune system. Any disease which suppresses the immune system increases the risk for urinary tract infections.
Symptoms of urinary tract infections may include increased frequency of urination, post-urination dribbling, painful or burning sensations during urination, frequent and urgent need to urinate without being able to, blood-tinged urine, and lower back pain. Because the bladder cannot empty completely, the kidneys also may not empty as they should. Dangerous pressure on the kidneys may result and, in severe cases, the kidneys may be damaged by both pressure and by toxins in the urine.
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