Urinary system disorders
There are a number of common urinary system disorders that can occur. Learn how these problems may affect you.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
An infection in the urinary tract is called a urinary tract infection, or UTI. UTIs are experienced by millions of people each year. Women are especially susceptible to UTIs.
The cause of a urinary tract infection is bacteria, which often make their way from the digestive tract into the urinary system. One type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (or E. coli), normally lives in the colon. When introduced in the urinary tract, E. coli multiplies, and an infection results.
Other microorganisms known as Chlamydia and Mycoplasma can also cause urinary tract infections in both men and women. Unlike UTIs resulting from E. coli, these types of infections can be passed on through sexual contact.
Urinary tract infections can occur in different areas of the urinary system. The specific medical name of a urinary tract infection relates to its specific location in your body:
- A bladder infection is called cystitis
- A kidney infection is known as pyelonephritis
- An infection in the urethra is called urethritis
The most common treatment for urinary tract infections is antibiotics. Ninety-four percent of uncomplicated UTIs are cured with oral antibiotics.
Painful bladder syndrome / Interstitial cystitis (PBS/IC)
Painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis, or PBS/IC, is a chronic disorder also known as frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, it means your bladder wall has become inflamed and irritated. The result can be pinpoint bleeding, decreased bladder capacity and scarring and stiffening of the bladder. Rarely, ulcers will form in the lining of the bladder. There are two primary treatments for PBS/IC: oral medications and bladder instillations. A bladder instillation involves using a catheter to administer medication directly into the bladder.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
The prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system, lies below the bottom of the bladder, surrounding the urethra. In benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the prostate becomes enlarged due to the growth of non-cancerous cells. By pressing on the urethra, it can create a blockage leading to urination difficulties.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is common in later life. Often men with benign prostatic hyperplasia will have other problems as well, including urinary tract infections, frequent urination, painful urination and urinary hesitancy. It is common for men over 60 years of age to have some degree of BPH, but not all will have problems with blockage.
Bladder control problems (urinary incontinence and urinary retention)
Loss of bladder control is called urinary incontinence. Another common bladder issue is urinary retention, which causes problems with emptying the bladder. Treatment includes:
- Bladder or behavior training, which helps the individual learn to control urine flow
- Kegel or pelvic floor exercises that strengthen the bladder outlet
- Medications that either prevent the bladder from contracting or increase bladder capacity
- Estrogen to help increase the lining of the urogenital tract in women
- Collagen injections in the urethral lining to provide temporary relief of some types of incontinence
The term kidney stone refers to a solid deposit that occurs in the urinary system. It forms inside the kidney, out of substances found in urine. It may remain in the kidney or move through the urinary tract. If it is a small stone, it may pass out of the body without causing a great deal of pain. However, if it is larger in size, it can get lodged in the ureter, bladder or urethra. In these cases, it can be very painful and also block the flow of urine. Treatment depends on the type of kidney stone. Medication and diet changes are often used to prevent kidney stones.
Inflammation of the prostate is called prostatitis. Symptoms of prostatitis include painful or difficult urination, frequent urination and pain in the lower back and genital area.
Antibiotics are usually the first treatment for prostatitis. If muscle spasms are a problem, muscle relaxants or alpha-blockers may be prescribed. Medicines designed to reduce inflammation can help relieve pain. Sometimes Finasterid® may be used to slow the growth of the prostate. Some men find that massaging the prostate several times a week can help ease symptoms. Surgery may be required if the cause of the prostatitis is a problem with the urinary tract, such as narrowing of the urethra or bladder neck, which may exert pressure on the prostate.
Proteinuria occurs when there are abnormal amounts of protein in the urine. Proteinuria indicates that kidneys are not functioning properly and can be a sign of chronic kidney disease. If your doctor suspects that you have kidney disease, he or she may check your blood pressure, use a blood test to determine your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and/or do an ultrasound of your kidneys.
When your kidneys are no longer able to remove waste material from your blood or maintain the necessary balance of water and chemicals in your body, kidney (renal) failure can occur. When it happens suddenly, it is known as acute renal failure (ARF), and is usually reversible. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) may worsen over time and can result in end stage renal disease (ESRD), which is a permanent loss of kidney function.
If you have another condition that has led to kidney disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you will be treated for that in hopes of slowing the progression of kidney disease. You may be told to follow a special kidney diet. If kidney disease reaches the point where a person has less than 10 -15% kidney function, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary.
Your urinary system removes waste and extra fluid from your blood. There are many different urinary system disorders that can arise within this complex system. If you are having pain, difficulty passing urine or any other problems with your urinary tract, you should contact your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. Early detection and treatment of urinary tract problems may play a role in keeping your kidneys healthy.
Related articles on DaVita.com
- Some causes of kidney disease in children
- Kidney stones and chronic kidney disease
- Inflammation diseases of the kidneys