The urethra is the canal that moves urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. When this canal becomes infected, inflammation occurs due to the accumulation of white blood cells in the area. When this occurs, it is called urethritis. Besides the urethra, the urinary tract consists of the bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Inflammation can move up the urethra, causing cystitis in the bladder, or nephritis in the kidneys. Collectively, these inflammations are called urinary tract infections or UTIs.
Urinary tract infections are much more common in women than in men, probably due to anatomy. Infections are especially more common in older women, due to bladder problems.
Causes and symptoms
Uncomplicated urethritis usually results from infection by the bacteria Escherichia coli, commonly found in the bowel. Complicated urethritis can occur when other problems exist, such as kidney stones, malformations of the urinary tract, spinal cord injury, or a compromised immune system. People with diabetes tend to have more urinary tract infections, as well as hospitalized patients. Urinary tract infections can also be sexually transmitted. Some people seem to be susceptible to urinary tract infections, having them recurrently.
Frequently, a urinary tract infection has no symptoms. Common symptoms though, include pain and a burning sensation when urinating, frequent urination, or passing blood in the urine. Signs that the infection may be worsening include fever and chills, nausea, vomiting, and lower back pain.
Cindy L. A. Jones PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,