The term "urinary tract" refers to the body's system of processing and dispelling urine. It includes the kidneys where urine is made, the bladder where urine is stored, the ureters that are tubes for transporting the urine from the kidneys to the bladder and the urethra which transports the urine from the bladder while a person is urinating.
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One of the reasons that women may be more susceptible to urinary tract infections is that they have urethras that are shorter than men's, therefore giving bacteria a shorter distance to travel in order to reach the bladder. Additionally, sexual intercourse may increase a woman's risk of contracting a urinary tract infection, as the act can push bacteria into the urethra. Pregnant women may be subject to these infections without exhibiting the usual symptoms, making them at greater risk for the infection to travel to the kidneys.
The symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include:
If any of the symptoms suggest the presence of a urinary tract infection, it is important to seek a diagnosis immediately.
Treatment usually involves prescribing antibiotics and drinking large quantities of water to help flush away the infection. Symptoms usually begin to ease within a day or two after treatment begins.
Urinary tract infections that recur within six months of treatment may suggest other underlying conditions that may or may not require additional treatment. For example, the problem may be caused by fecal bacteria that may only require a simple change in personal hygiene after each bowel movement.
Occasionally, recurring infections can be caused by structural anomalies within the urethra or ureters that prohibit the complete emptying of contents by the kidney or bladder. This can be diagnosed by a simple ultrasound test, but surgery may be required afterward.
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