A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria moves up the urethra into the bladder, ureters and/or kidneys. Urinary tract infections are easily treated, but can be a serious health problem if left untreated. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), they account for around 8 million visits to doctors annually. Incubation time for a UTI can vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on the bacteria that is causing the infection.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infections: E. coli
Urinary tract infections can be caused be a number of different bacteria, but the most common cause is the bacteria E. coli. This bacteria occurs naturally in the human gut. E. coli can enter the urinary tract as a result of improper bathroom habits. E. coli has an incubation period of anywhere from three to eight days, according to the World Health Organization.
E. coli most often gets into the urinary tract when it is transferred from the digestive tract. This can occur when feces come in contact with the urinary opening as a result of poor bathroom habits such as wiping back to front. Diarrhea due to the flu or other gastric upsets may also transfer E. coli to the urinary tract. The bacteria can also be transferred during sexual intercourse, with women especially at risk, according to NKUDIC.
Causes of UTIs: Chlamydia
Urinary tract infections can also be caused by chlamydia, which is sexually transmitted. However, UTIs caused by this bacteria are less common than those caused by E. coli and are usually limited to the bladder and urethra. Chlamydia has an incubation period of one to three weeks, according to Dr. Debra E Houry, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Emory University.
Causes of UTIs: Mycoplasma
Mycoplasma is best known as a cause of pneumonia, but it has recently been identified as a sexually transmitted infection that can also cause UTIs. The incubation period for Mycoplasma genitalium, the mycoplasma bacteria that causes UTIs, has not been firmly established. However, according to Dr. Ken B Waites, director of clinical microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the usual incubation period for mycoplasma is between one and three weeks.
Who is at Risk for a UTI?
Some people are at higher risk for UTIs than others. Women tend to get more UTIs than men, for reasons that are not fully understood, but which likely have to do with anatomical differences from men, such as a shorter urethra. Diabetics and people who have kidney stones may also be more prone to UTIs. Some women have recurrent UTIs during pregnancy; NKUDIC estimates that 2 to 4 percent of pregnant women will develop a UTI. Catheterization and immune deficiency can also contribute to UTIs.
Children and infants are prone to UTIs, though their symptoms may be attributed to other conditions. It is important to watch UTI symptoms in infants and children carefully, as they may be a result of anatomical abnormalities that need surgery to correct.
Treatment of UTIs
A doctor will diagnose your UTI by checking your urine for blood or pus. This will require a "clean catch" urine sample, which is done in the doctor's office. UTIs caused by chlamydia or mycoplasma may take a more thorough bacteria culture to diagnose.
UTIs are treated with prescription antibiotics, including amoxicillin, sulfa drugs and ampicillin. Be sure to disclose any allergies or sensitivities to your doctor during your visit.