Urinary tract infection is the presence and proliferation of harmful microorganisms within the urinary system. It involves the urethra, bladder, ureters and the kidneys. Typically infection of the urinary tract starts in the lower urinary system and ascends till it gets to the kidneys. This has be referred to as ‘Ascending infection’.
Generally, symptoms of UTI depend on the affected portion of the urinary system and it is very common for patients to exhibit symptoms indicating that several portions of the urinary tract are affected. As with any other disease, several other organs can be affected secondary from the spread of infection from the urinary tract leading to potential life threatening conditions. This is usually as a result of spread of the microorganism in blood or lymphatics to distant organs or via direct spread to organs in close proximity to the urinary tract.
In this article, we are going to review 5 major organs affected by Urinary tract infection.
- Brain: The brain is an important organ of the body which controls the essence of life. The brain receives about 10% of blood pumped from the heart at every beat and it is an important organ commonly affected by urinary tract infection. With the spill of infection into the blood stream, the organisms are carried to the brain by the blood causing infection of the brain. This is a life threatening condition that if not treated promptly by experienced physicians can lead to death and severe complications. Infection of the brain and its covering is called encephalitis and meningitis respectively.
- Heart: The heart may also be affected in patients suffering from urinary tract infection. This is commonly seen in patients with prosthetic valves, congenital defects of the heart and chronic conditions affecting the heart. These defects in the heart acts as a nidus for the proliferation of microorganism carried in the blood to the heart. This can lead to severe heart infection, destruction of heart valves and failure of the heart.
- Lungs: The lungs are essential for breathing and it is the organ where exchange of respiratory gases occurs. Infected blood from untreated urinary tract infection gets to the lungs and infection is established and this is frequently seen in children because of the inability to localize and contain an infection. Bacterial infection of the lungs is known as pneumonia which is among the top 5 killer disease affecting children in sub-Sahara Africa. Every child with suspected UTI should be accessed for involvement of the organs especially the lungs. Pneumonia secondary to UTI can also affect adults especially adults whose immune system has been compromised from HIV/Aids, Diabetes mellitus, Chronic kidney disease and use of immunosuppressive drugs.
- Prostate Gland: The prostate gland is generally not considered as part of the urinary tract but it lies in close proximity to the bladder. This inverted almond shaped gland lies just underneath the bladder and it secretions forms part of the seminal fluid. Due to its close proximity to the bladder, seeding of infection can get to this organ causing prostatitis which is associated with severe pain and discomfort around the perineal area in addition to symptoms of urinary tract infection.
- Testis: In men, infection from the urinary tract can also spread to affect the testes. This can lead to severe scrotal swelling and pain, difficulty in urination and if not treated promptly can damage the testes leading to infertility in future.
It is therefore important that all cases of suspected Urinary tract infection should be treated promptly by a qualified physician after careful examination and evaluation as this helps to reduce the incidence of life threatening complications. Endeavor to consult your physician on time to avoid complications from UTI.