UTI, Bladder Infection, Kidney Infection - What Are The Differences?

One of the most common bacterial infections experienced is a urinary tract infection (UTI). It affects around 150 million people worldwide, and is typically diagnosed as a lower or upper UTI.

UTI, Bladder Infection, Kidney Infection - What Are The Differences?

According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in five women will experience a UTI over the course of a lifetime. An infection beginning in the lower urinary tract can travel through the urethra and bladder to the kidneys (causing a far more serious infection). However, bladder and kidney infections may also occur without first traveling through the urethra. 

At Affiliated Urologists, we diagnose and treat a wide range of urological disorders (including lower and upper UTIs).

Five Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

The following are five common symptoms of lower UTIs (per the Mayo Clinic):

  • A burning sensation when urinating;
  • A strong and/or frequent urge to urinate;
  • Urine that appears cloudy;
  • Strong-smelling urine;
  • Excretion of red or pink-colored urine (blood in the urine)

Upper UTIs are often accompanied by pain in the back (in an area over the location of the kidneys). 

What are Some Causes of Lower UTIs?

Gastrointestinal bacteria (e.g., E. Coli) spread from the anus to urethra are a primary cause of lower UTIs (including the urethra and bladder). Incurring a sexually-transmitted disease also increases the likelihood of UTI development (and diabetes also increases UTI risk). Meanwhile, recurrent bladder infections impact 30-40 percent of adults diagnosed with this type of lower UTI, and hereditary factors may play a role in susceptibility.

The placement of a urinary catheter (such as may occur after surgery and in incontinent adults) can also contribute to a UTI, and antibiotic-resistant UTIs can even lead to sepsis. In turn, sepsis can necessitate prolonged hospitalization in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Kidney Infections and Kidney Damage

Bacteria infecting the upper UTI (e.g.,ureters and kidneys), can cause permanent ureteral and/or kidney damage. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) describes the following as some of the symptoms of a kidney infection: 

  • Experience of persistent pain in the back, side, or groin;
  • Chills and fever (often accompanied by painful urination);
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting

A blockage in the urinary tract (resulting from a kidney stone or enlarged prostate) can increase the likelihood of a kidney infection. However, vesicoureteral reflux (VR) – which can occur if abnormal ureteral valves allow urine to flow back into the kidneys – can also lead to frequent kidney infections. At least one percent of all children have VR, and it tends to run in families. 

Since the kidneys are the main organs involved in removing waste from the body, frequent kidney infections can damage the kidneys and potentially lead to kidney failure. Meanwhile, kidney failure can lead to the need for dialysis to artificially remove waste from the bloodstream. 

Three Tips for Preventing Adult Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

The following are three tips recommended by the Centers for Disease Control in order to prevent developing a UTI as an adult:

  • Urinate before (and after) sexual activity;
  • Take showers instead of baths;
  • Drink enough water each day to stay well-hydrated (and thereby urinate frequently)

The Importance of UTI Treatment Compliance

Completing the prescribed regimen of antibiotics is vital to ensuring that the organism causing the UTI does not become antibiotic-resistant. If you are allergic to a particular antibiotic (or the bacteria causing your UTI does not response to the prescribed antibiotic), a different antibiotic treatment approach will be utilized.

The physicians at Affiliated Urologistsin Arizona are trained to both diagnose and treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), and are an excellent choice if you think that you are developing a UTI. It is important to recognize that the faster you seek UTI diagnosis and treatment, the more likely that your UTI will quickly resolve.

Affiliated Urologists is an award-winning practice recognized both locally and nationally that has provided service to patients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and surrounding communities in the Valley, for over 40 years. The physicians emphasize top-of-the-line comprehensive urological care and strive to deliver the highest outcomes for patient satisfaction. To make an appointment, call 602-264-0608 or contact us for instructions on scheduling an appointment.

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material. 

New patients are always welcome.

Affiliated Urologists


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