Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Almost 20 percent of women will develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their lives. Cystitis (a bladder infection) is a common type of UTI, and is far more prevalent among women than men. It is reported to be one of the most frequent medical complaints among women in their reproductive years.

Causes and Symptoms

Normally, the bladder is sterile - completely free of bacteria and other infectious organisms. When an infection occurs, it is typically found in either the lower urinary tract - affecting the bladder and urethra - or the upper urinary tract, which affects the kidneys and ureters. When an organism invades the urinary tract, it enters by one of two routes: the lower end of the urinary tract or through the bloodstream.

Bacterial infections arising from the lower tract are very common, particularly among women, whose urinary anatomy makes them much more susceptible than men. The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. Coli) is responsible for most urinary tract infections. E. Coli is actually harmless in the small intestine where it normally resides, but becomes a problem when it spreads to the urinary tract.

Risk Factors

Age and gender. Women are 30 times more likely to develop a bladder infection than men. After menopause, the risk for recurrent infections increases substantially. This may be due to a decrease in estrogen, which may result in a reduction of the number of beneficial bacteria in the vagina that help keep harmful bacteria in check. The bladder also tends to become less elastic with age and may not empty completely.

Sexual activity. Frequent or traumatic sexual intercourse can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

Pregnancy. Up to 10 percent of pregnant women tend to have bacteria in their urine, which increases the risk for urinary tract infections.

Antibiotics. Some antibiotics can actually eliminate the good bacteria, cause an overgrowth of E. Coli in the vagina and increase risk of UTIs.

Typical symptoms of (UTI) include:

Bladder infections. These are marked by a frequent, urgent need to urinate, or a painful or burning sensation during urination. Frequent urination may also occur during the night.

Kidney infection. A bladder infection with pain spreading to the lower back or flanks may indicate that the infection is moving to the upper tract. Fever is common and blood in the urine may be visible as a pink tinge. Medical help should be sought immediately if this occurs.

Nutrition and Supplements

Cranberry juice and cranberry extract. Cranberries contain a substance that helps prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder walls. Recommended supplements:

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