Urinary tract infections are so common that most women acquire at least one infection in their lives. In fact, an estimated 50% to 80% of women develop urinary tract infections sometime during their lifetime. It is also estimated that 20% to 50% of women will have recurrent infections. Men can develop these infections too. However, women are more prone to develop the infection because of their anatomy. The distance between the bladder and the urethral opening is relatively short in women, and this opening is in close proximity to the vagina and rectum, which makes it easy for bacteria to move from one place to another. In men, the urethral tube is longer and its opening is further from the rectum. This is resulting in a lower frequency of urinary tract infections. Urine odor is a common symptom of the urinary tract infections, and since these infections are so frequent, it’s easy to understand that it is important to know more about it.

What is urinary tract infection?

Urinary tract infection, shorter UTI, is also refered to as cystitis. This infection occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and cause tissue damage to the urethra, bladder, or kidneys. These infections are not transmitted during sexual intercourse, but the chance of developing a UTI increases dramatically if you are sexually active. This happens because of the transfer of bacteria during sex between the vagina, rectum, and urethra.

What causes urinary tract infections?

These infections are present because bacteria such as Escherichia coli travel into the urethra, bladder, and sometimes the kidneys. Other sexually transmitted infections such as trichomoniasis and Chlamydia can cause urinary tract infections as well. Experiencing stress, having a weak immune system, eating a poor diet and damaging the urethra in childbirth or surgery can predispose person to getting urinary tract infections. It often occurs after having sex with a new partner, which is why this condition is famous as honeymoon cystitis.
It may also happen after having sex with your partner for the first time in a while.

What are the symptoms of urinary tract infections?

UTI’s symptoms in both men and women include pain and intense burning during urination, a need to urinate every few minutes and needing to urinate with very little fluid coming out. The presence of blood in the urine and strong odor the first time you urinate in the morning are also common. In advanced infections, there may be fever, vomiting and pain in the mid to lower back. This is a common problem as the infection reaches the kidneys. It is serious and needs immediate medical attention and treatment. Young children with urinary tract infections may only have fever or even no symptoms at all. Additional symptoms may include painful sexual intercourse, penis pain, flank pain, vomiting, or fever and chills. Mental changes or confusion in the elderly are the only signs of a urinary tract infection.

Treatment for urinary tract infection

Once a doctor has confirmed that you have a UTI, he will prescribe some medication to relieve the symptoms and also an antibiotic to treat the infection itself. Although there are also some effective herbal cures, patient should discuss these with the doctor. Sometimes the symptoms go away even though the infection may be spreading to the kidneys as the further stadium for UTI. It is important to know that sharp pain in the lower back may be a sign of kidney infection. Prevention strategies are particularly important, maybe even more then the treatment. Urinary tract infections should be avoided because of the damage to the kidneys and the urinary tract and the development of possibly life-threatening problems. This may occur if a UTI is untreated, or if patient experiences chronic urinary tract infections. That is why, if your pain and symptoms are persistant, you must see a doctor. The antibiotics that are commonly used to treat the urinary tract infections include Nitrofurantoin, Cephalosporins, Sulfa drugs, Amoxicillin, Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, Doxycycline, or Quinolones. Most non-elderly adult women only need 3 days of antibiotics treatment, but if the infection has spread to one of the kidneys, you may need hospitalization to receive hydration and antibiotics through the vein. Treatment of a chronic or recurrent UTI must be thorough because of the chance of a kidney infection. Sometimes the antibiotics must be taken for as long as 6 months to 2 years. In some cases, stronger antibiotics are used even for a single, uncomplicated episode of cystitis.

What is urine odor?

Urine odor relates to the volume and concentration of a variety of chemicals excreted by the kidney. Normally, urine does not have a strong odor, but if you are dehydrated and your urine becomes highly concentrated, it can have a strong ammonia smell. Many foods and medications, such as asparagus or vitamins can also affect the odor of urine. Most changes in urine odor are temporary and do not indicate serious illness. However, sometimes the unusual urine odor can be associated with an underlying medical condition. That is why you should talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the odor of your urine.

* Strong ammonia smell means there is not enough fluid or that there is dehydration * Foul smelling urine refers to bacterial infection of the kidneys or bladder.
* Sweet smelling urine might be caused by the uncontrolled diabetes.
* Musty smelling urine might be caused by the liver disease or phenylketonuria which is a rare, inherited metabolic condition.
* Maple syrup smell refers to a maple syrup urine disease that is rare inherited metabolic disorder. Maple syrup urine disease is reffered to as MSUD. There are several forms for this disease. The classic form is quite serious and kids with this disease get very sick in the first week of life with vomiting and worsening symptoms over a few days. Babies that suffer from the mild form have the sugary smell at first and then gradually develop other symptoms. These kids should have a special diet. There is also a formof this disease which responds well to the vitamin thiamine. All of the forms of MSUD are a result of missing enzymes that normally help process proteins in our body. In some cases, the odor may be fine, but it is something you will want to be sure your doctor knows about.

Test for urine odor

Doctors usually need to test the urine to find the cause of the urine odor. To obtain a clean-catch urine sample, males should wipe the head of the penis clean and females should wipe between the labia with soapy water and rinse well. Sometimes patient should use a special clean-catch kit with cleansing solution and sterile wipes. At the beginning, the patient should let the small amount of the urine into the toilet bowl to clear the urethra of contaminants. Then he needs to collect a sample of urine in a clean or sterile container. Doctors need about 1 - 2 ounces of urine for a test. Try to remove the container from the urine stream without stopping the flow. You may finish voiding into the toilet bowl, so after this, take the sample to the lab.

Taking a urine sample from an infant

The infant’s genital area will be clean and dry. When you attach a collection device, to collect the urine, you have to be sure that you have done it carefully, to prevent leakage. After the baby has urinated, you should transfer urine to a sterile container for transport back to the health care provider.

Then health care provider will smell specimen in a laboratory to determine its odor. No special preparation is necessary for this test, but if you took the collection from an infant, a couple of extra collection bags may be necessary. The test for urine odor involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort. The normal odor of urine is aromatic. Abnormal urine odor may indicate liver failure, ketonuria, maple sugar urine disease, phenylketonuria, rectal fistula, or urinary tract infection.
When urine sits at a room temperature, some of the chemicals in it may break down and cause an ammonia-like odor in some cases. It is important to remember that asparagus produces a characteristic odor in the urine.

Risk factors that increase the chances of getting a urinary tract infection

Pregnancy and menopause, kidney stones, sexual intercourse, especially if you have multiple partners or use a diaphragm for birth control, are risk factors for getting UTI. If you had prostate inflammation or enlargement, narrowed urethra, have been immobile for a long time, for example, during recovery from a hip fracture, you also have on increased risk of developing UTIs. Persons who are not drinking enough fluids, who have bowel incontinence or catheterization also have an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections. Some children develop UTIs, most commonly boys before their first birthday. UTIs are more common among uncircumcised boys. In young girls, UTIs are most common around age three, overlapping with the toilet training period.

Circumcision and urinary tract infections

Few of the studies that have evaluated the association between UTI in male infants and circumcision status have looked at potential confounders. Those are for example prematurity, breastfeeding, and method of urine collection. For example, because premature infants appear to be at increased risk for UTI, the inclusion of hospitalized premature infants in a study population may act as a confounder. It is commonly suggested thar the uncircumcised infants have an increased risk of UTI . Premature infants usually did not have circumcision because of their fragile health status. In another example, breastfeeding has a threefold protective effect on the incidence of urinary tract infections in a sample of uncircumcised infants.