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What Are Genitourinary Tract Infections?

It is important to remain properly hydrated to keep the urinary tract clear.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Genitourinary tract infections are infections that develop along a patient's urinary or genital tract, or both, in some cases. They are very common, especially among sexually active people and those with certain risk factors like a history of genitourinary anomalies. Treatment usually involves medication to kill the infectious organism along with proper hydration to keep the urinary tract clear. Patients may need to see a specialist like a urologist or gynecologist to treat stubborn or recurrent infections.

Some people have a much higher risk of genitourinary tract infections. Women, older patients, patients who use catheters, and people who are sexually active are at increased risk, as are those with a history of blockages in the urinary tract. Fungi, viruses, and bacteria can all cause genitourinary tract infections, and some infections are very difficult to treat due to drug resistant organisms. The doctor may need to try several medications to find one that works effectively. In some cases, patients may also need to balance concerns about side effects with the search for the right drug.

Patients with genitourinary tract infections will notice symptoms like difficulty urinating, painful urination, and unpleasant discharges from the genitourinary tract. They may also feel sore around the pelvic region and can develop fevers, swollen lymph nodes, and surface lesions, depending on the cause of the infection. Some examples of genitourinary tract infections include prostatitis, gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease, trichomoniasis, and candidiasis.

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If the infection is not treated, it can spread up the genitourinary tract and cause kidney damage, infertility, and other problems. It is important to receive a diagnostic screening as soon as symptoms start to develop, and to treat the infection aggressively. Medications will kill off the organisms, and patients may receive a big loading dose, often in the form of an injection, to knock out as many organisms as possible at the start of treatment. It is also important to stay hydrated and to keep the genitals clean during treatment.

Repeat infections can be a sign of poor hygiene, incomplete treatment of an original infection, risky behavior, or a problem with the genitourinary tract. Patients with immune compromise are also more likely to experience recurrent infections and may have difficulty fighting them off. A doctor should evaluate a patient who experiences frequent genitourinary tract infections to search for an underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. The issue may be as simple as an infection with resistant organisms that need to be treated with a different drug regimen.

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