Guide to Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

A urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI, is a bacterial infection that can affect the urethra, bladder or kidneys. It is most often caused by the E. coli bacterium, but urinary tract infection is occasionally caused by other bacteria, fungi or parasites. Urinary tract infection symptoms can vary depending on how far the infection has advanced and on the sex, age group and overall health of the infected person.

Common Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

Typical symptoms of a UTI include a burning sensation when urinating, an urge to empty the bladder frequently and cloudy urine. The urine may also have a foul odor and appear dark or bloody. These symptoms are usually indicative of cystitis, which is an infection of the bladder. If the infection has spread to the kidneys, fever, chills and flank pain are likely to occur.

Women
Women are more likely to develop urinary tract infections than men. This may be because their urethras are shorter, allowing bacteria to travel more easily to the bladder. Sexual activity and hormonal fluctuations in women increase the risk of developing a UTI. In addition to the usual symptoms of urinary tract infection, women can develop pelvic pain, bloating and vaginal discharge.

Men
The factors increasing a man's risk of a UTI include a blockage such as a kidney stone, an infected or enlarged prostate and intercourse with a woman who has an infection. Men can display all of the usual urinary tract infection symptoms but may also experience pain in the penis, testicles and abdomen and a discharge from the penis.

Children
Children are often harder to diagnose than adults. In babies and toddlers, the only sign of a UTI may be a general feeling of malaise and a fever. The child may be irritable and not feed well, which could indicate any number of other illnesses. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. Older children usually have more of the classic symptoms of urinary tract infection, and the fact that they are able to express how they are feeling can lead to a faster diagnosis.

The Elderly
Older men and women are more prone to urinary tract infection than other age groups because the bladder muscles weaken with age. Weak muscles prevent the bladder from emptying completely, leaving stagnant urine behind that breeds bacteria. The elderly are even more difficult to diagnose with urinary tract infections than children because their symptoms are so vague and often go unnoticed until the infection spreads. Even with an advanced infection that has made its way to the kidneys, senior citizens often do not develop a fever. However, when the infection has spread to the the bloodstream, they will become weak and confused, and caregivers may mistake these symptoms for signs of dementia.

The Importance of Early Detection
Missing the signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection can lead to devastating health complications, including dehydration, severe kidney infection and sepsis. Learning to spot early urinary tract infection symptoms will lead to a quicker recovery and better overall health.