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In the first of 3 weekly parts, we discuss UTI's - this week - Different types of UTI and their causes

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)

(Part 1)


The part of the body responsible for the filtering, processing, and passing of liquid waste is known as the urinary tract. For clinical purposes it is divided into the “upper” urinary tract which contains the kidneys and ureters (two thin tubes which carry processed waste liquid from the kidneys to the bladder) and the “lower” urinary tract which includes the bladder and urethra.


There are primarily three types of UTI, dependent on location: -

  • Cystitis (infection of the bladder) – a lower UTI
  • Urethritis (infection of the urethra) – a lower UTI and potentially more serious
  • Pyelonephritis (a kidney infection) – an upper UTI (ureters rarely would be a single site of infection)

UTI’s have two classifications: -

  • Complicated – includes pregnant women, men, children, the elderly > 65 and those with an upper UTI
  • Uncomplicated – those with lower UTI’s i.e., acute dysuria (painful urination) or urinary frequency issues (either too often or not often enough) in females, who are otherwise healthy and men without a diagnosed upper UTI

Whilst UTI’s can affect both genders of all ages, it is the most frequent bacterial infection identified in women, with females 30 times more likely than males to contract a UTI. Almost 50% of women will experience an infection in their lifetime with 30% having their first occurrence by age 24.

In elderly people, UTI’s can be harder to diagnose as the urinary system itself tends to weaken with age, especially in men. The existence of other conditions such as incontinence dementia can also hide the existence of a UTI.


In basic terms, UTI’s are caused by the entry of bacteria (generally from around the rectal or genital area) into the urethra. In many cases, the body can flush out the bacteria from the urethra before it spreads to other areas.

When this doesn’t happen, the result is the bacteria beating the body’s defences and gaining a hold by spreading through infection to other parts of the urinary tract. i.e., bladder, kidneys etc.

Other potential causes of UTI’s can be: -

  • A blockage in the urinary tract such as nephrolithiasis (kidney stones)
  • Being sexually active
  • Diabetes or another condition which might compromise the immune system
  • Previous UTI’s
  • Pregnancy
  • Difficulty voiding bladder (could be indication of underlying issue in men)
  • Recent or current catheter use

To be continued: Next week

For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore). Email queries to Find us on Facebook.

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