Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection that affects different parts of the urinary system like kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. It is one of the most common types of infection found in people irrespective of gender and age. However, studies indicate that women are more susceptible to this infection due to their anatomy and reproductive physiology. An estimated 50% of women report having had an episode of UTI at some point in their lives.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is one of the leading causes of morbidity and healthcare expenditures in people of all ages. The two most common types of UTI are infection of the bladder (cystitis) and kidney infection (pyelonephritis). While medical evaluation and treatments are required for all types of UTIs, a kidney infection can be quite serious and can lead to severe complications. So it is very important to know when the UTI is a kidney infection. Sometimes UTIs go unnoticed, but when the condition deteriorates and starts affecting the kidneys, the symptoms become very specific causing an uneasy irritation. The possible symptoms include high fever, nausea, or a constant urge to vomit, chills, lower back pain, abdominal pain, and a strong or persistent urge to urinate at frequent intervals.
If UTI is left untreated, it can have a long-lasting impact on the kidneys as it can:
Permanently damage the functioning of kidneys: If UTI is not treated on time, it can damage the kidneys irreversibly. It can affect the functioning and lead to kidney scars, high blood pressure, and other health issues. It can also be life-threatening.
Lead to overactive bladder: UTI’s can result in an overactive bladder. This is due to the overactivity in the muscle of the bladder wall, resulting in the urge to urinate more often.
Risk of infertility in women: The rare occurrence of UTI is considered to be normal but recurrent UTIs are not normal. UTI caused by tuberculosis bacteria can spread to the fallopian tubes and cause infertility.
Lead to septicaemia: Septicaemia is a serious and life-threatening bloodstream infection. It occurs when a bacterial infection in any part of the body enters the bloodstream. This is very dangerous because the bacteria can be carried through the bloodstream to the entire body.
Acute kidney failure: UTI, when associated with septic shock, (low blood pressure) can cause sudden deterioration of the renal functions.
(The author is a consultant nephrologist.)