Urinary tract infections (UTI) are so common, they are virtually a fact of life. The urinary system consists of both pea-shaped, fist-sized kidneys, an ureter draining out of each kidney, a collecting bladder, and an urethra which is really a conduit to the outside. The urinary tract is an outlet for urine to drain from the kidneys to the outside. Prior to each evacuation, urine is stored within the bladder. This entire tract is designed to be sterile, that is, free of bacteria. When sterility is breached, bacteria grow and multiply within the urinary tract, a condition known as UTI.

So many different microbes can cause a UTI. Most often UTIs occur when microbes which are ordinarily resident within the gut, gain entry through the urethra and spread through the urinary tract. At least 50 percent of all women will experience an UTI at some point in their lives, whilst only 5 percent of men experience that. Women are more likely to develop UTIs because of their relatively short urethras, making entry into the urinary tract that much easier.

UTIs are even more common with certain risk factors, which include:
v Indwelling bladder catheters
v Increased sexual activity
v Intra-vaginal foreign body (such as spermicides or diaphragms being used for contraception)
v Pregnancy
v Following menopause
v After a hysterectomy
v History of constipation
v History of diabetes mellitus
v Bladder reflux in children

A urinary tract infection is most commonly associated with a painful, burning sensation on passing urine. Some may also complain of fever, chills, abdominal cramps, foul smelling urine, bloody or cloudy urine. However, it is just as common not to be aware of a urinary tract infection, as many patients might completely lack symptoms. In those cases, it is probably just as well not to treat, except during pregnancy where untreated infections could possibly affect the baby.

If you think you might have a UTI, it is best to drink plenty of fluids, and ask to see your doctor.