A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a common infection that mostly affect women. It can occur in any part of the urinary system. A urinary tract infection is generally treated with antibiotics. However, if the infection isn’t identified and is left untreated, it can move to the kidneys and ureters and may cause sepsis and septic shock. Sepsis that results from an untreated urinary tract infection is generally called urosepsis. Urosepsis is a serious complication of a UTI and should be treated as a medical emergency.
Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to infection. The body attacks its own organs and tissues which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. More than 1.5 million people in the United States develop sepsis every year. At least 270,000 of them will die. If you have a UTI, you should seek medical help. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics that can treat the infection immediately. As urosepsis is a complication of a UTI, it is important to know the symptoms of a UTI.
- Frequent urges to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Cloudy urine
- A feeling that your bladder is full, even after urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Foul smelling urine
- Pelvic pain in women
If the infection reaches beyond the bladder and becomes urosepsis, a person may display serious symptoms common to sepsis.
Symptoms of urosepsis include:
- Pain near kidney, or lower sides of back
- Reduced urine volume
- Trouble breathing
- Weak pulse
- High fever or low temperature
- Changes in heart rate such as rapid heartbeat
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter through the urethra, which is the tube that urine travels through to exit the body. The bacteria can travel in a number of ways including inadequate personal hygiene. sexual contact and a pre-existing bladder condition. Women are more prone to UTIs because of the shorter length of their urethras.
Sepsis can impact anyone–young or old, sick or healthy. Risk factors for developing a UTI include:
- Female anatomy. A woman has a shorter urethra than a man does, which shortens the distance that bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.
- Being sexually active. Sexually active women tend to have more UTIs than women who aren’t sexually active. Having a new sexual partner also increases your risk of developing a UTI.
- Certain types of birth control. Women who use diaphragms and spermicidal agents for birth control may have increased risk of developing a UTI.
- Menopause. Post-menopausal women are also at higher risk. This is due to a decline in circulating estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that make you more vulnerable to infection.
A doctor may diagnose urosepsis after confirming the presence of a UTI. This is done through a urine sample. If the doctor believes the infection may have spread, they will order blood tests to help diagnose urosepsis. The doctor may try to find another cause of the infection and order x-rays, blood cultures and other imaging tests.
When a UTI is diagnosed it can be treated with an antibiotic. A person will also be encouraged to drink liquid to help flush the urinary tract.
If a doctor suspects the infection has spread, an additional test may be undertaken such as blood test, kidney test and ultrasound. Doctors will monitor the patient closely to see how well the patient responds to an antibiotic. If a person has severe sepsis or septic shock, they may require oxygen or surgery to get rid of the source of the infection.
Urinary tract infections can be prevented. Here are some ways to stop them occurring:
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water–this helps dilute your urine and ensures you urinate more frequently which allows bacteria to be flushed from your body.
- Clean after sex. After having sex, drink a full glass of water and clean your genitals as the act of sex could push bacteria into the urethra.
- Wipe from front to back. Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria from touching the entrance of the urethra.
- Avoid irritating feminine products: Using deodorant sprays and feminine products can irritate the urethra.