According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection affecting the body. Millions of people every year are treated for these infections. Urine is supposed to be a sterile substance, free of bacteria, viruses or fungi. However, oftentimes microorganisms from the digestive tract congregate around the opening of the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder) and begin to multiply. When this happens, an infection is often imminent. But just how do these microorganisms get in the urinary tract, and what are the risk factors for contracting such an infection?
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Most infections, including urinary tract infections, are caused by the bacteria known as E. coli. However, other microorganisms such as Mycoplasma or Chlamydia, which can be sexually transmitted, can also cause infection.
Obstruction in the Urinary Tract
Any type of abnormality in the urinary tract can obstruct the flow of urine. The flow of urine from the bladder is such that it is generally effective in washing bacteria out of the body. But if there is some type of obstruction, such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, bacteria can build up, causing an infection.
Any condition that suppresses the immune system raises the risk of contracting a urinary tract infections. People suffering from diabetes or AIDS will have infections more often because of changes in the immune system brought on by the disease.
Improper hygiene is the most common cause of a urinary tract infection. If an individual does wash on a regular basis or wipe properly (front to back) after a bowel movement, bacteria will build up on the skin near the rectum or vagina. Once the bacteria is living in that area, the chances of it entering the urinary tract by way of the urethra are increased.
Women are especially susceptible to a urinary tract infection being caused by sex. Any bacteria around the vaginal area can be pushed into the urethra by the motion of the penis.
Waiting Too Long to Urinate
Waiting too long to urinate will cause the bladder to stretch beyond its capacity. This can weaken the bladder muscle, preventing it from emptying completely and leaving urine behind, making it much more susceptible to infection.
An individual who uses a catheter for a period of time is more susceptible to urinary tract infections. These tubes, which are placed within the urethra and bladder, can have bacteria build up on them if they are not changed on a regular basis. If bacteria is present, it will often cause infection.
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