Basic Information About UTIs
A UTI is also called a urinary tract infection. A UTI in the urethra is called urethritis. A UTI that causes a bladder infection (bacteria move to the bladder and multiply) is called cystitis. A UTI that causes a kidney infection (bacteria move to the kidneys) is called pyelonephritis.
Normally, urine is sterile, meaning it is free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The urinary system is also structured in a way that helps ward off infection. However, despite these safeguards, UTIs can still occur. In most cases, UTIs are caused by a type of bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli) that normally lives in the colon.
(Click Causes of UTI for more information.)
Although most doctors believe that a UTI is caused by a type of organism (such as bacteria), they have a hard time explaining why one person will get a UTI and another person will not. Urinary tract infection research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop a UTI. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.
UTI risk factors include:
- Gender (women are more likely than men to have a UTI)
- Urinary tract problems (such as an enlarged prostate or kidney stones)
- Sexual intercourse
- Certain habits (such as waiting too long to pass urine)
- Urinary catheter
- Old age (elderly people are more likely to have an urinary tract infection)
- Medical conditions (such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and vesicoureteral reflux)
- Immunosuppressant medications
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Diaphragms or spermicidal foam
- Skin allergies to soaps and cleansers used in the vaginal area.
(Click UTI Risk Factors for more information.)