Everyone must take proper care of their urinary system for their kidneys to function properly. Unfortunately, infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder, as well as kidney stones, affect millions of people each year. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to major health problems.
According to the website for the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, the urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
An adult passes about 1.5 quarts of urine each day. Urine is free of bacteria, viruses and fungi, but contains fluids, salts and waste products. An infection occurs when bacteria from the digestive tract cling to the opening of the urethra and multiply. The bacteria often move to the bladder, and if not treated immediately, can infect the kidneys.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common health problems for women. Men are
not prone to get UTIs, but if they do get one, it can become a serious problem. UTIs in men usually come from an obstruction in their system, such as a urinary stone, an enlarged prostate or a catheter.
According to YourHealth.com, a bladder infection, also known as cystitis, is a type of UTI. The inner lining of the bladder becomes inflamed, and the urine is full of bacteria. When a person has a bladder infection, mechanisms that normally prevent urine from flowing back into the kidneys fail, and infected urine may move into the kidneys.
Kidney infections, also known as pyelonephritis, may be serious if not treated because the infection can enter the bloodstream, says YourHealth.com. Most kidney infections result from UTIs such as bladder infections.
Another common disorder of the urinary tract is kidney stones.
Kidney stones are hard masses formed from crystals that separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. If the crystals are small they travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body without being noticed, but even larger ones can pass out of the body without help from a physician.
A more frequent need to urinate, accompanied by a painful, burning sensation, is a symptom of UTIs such as bladder and kidney infections. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling shaky, tired and washed out.
- Pain when not urinating.
- Women may feel an uncomfortable pressure above the pubic bone.
- Men may experience fullness in the rectum.
- Passing only small amounts of urine that may look milky or cloudy, or reddish if blood is present.
If a person experiences a fever it usually means that the infection has progressed to the kidneys. Symptoms of a kidney infection include:
- Pain in the back or side below the ribs.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Persons with kidney stones experience extreme pain that begins suddenly when the stone moves in the urinary tract. Other symptoms include:
- Sharp cramping pain in the back and side, in the areas of the kidneys or lower abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting, and later pain in the groin area.
Doctors prescribe antibacterial drugs for treatment of UTIs. UTIs can often be cured in one or two days of treatment, but patients regularly take antibiotics for a week or two to ensure that the infection has been cured.
A longer therapy is usually prescribed for men who have infections of the prostate gland. Prostate infections are more difficult to cure and physicians prescribe specific antibiotics.
Treatment of kidney infections begins at home with antibiotics, but patients may be admitted to a hospital if they become seriously ill or dehydrated, or don’t respond to the antibiotics.
According to NKUDIC, kidney stones pass through the urinary system when the patient drinks 2 to 3 quarts of water daily.
If the kidney stone doesn’t pass within a reasonable amount of time and causes constant pain, or if it’s too large to pass on its own, surgery may be required.