The Urinary System
Kidney stones do not always require medical intervention. But occasionally a stone can block the urine flow leading to an elevated fever and infection causing an emergency situation where medical attention should be sought immediately.
Calcium-containing stones are most commonly caused by glandular imbalances, dehydration, or a diet rich in oxalic acid. Foods rich in oxalic acid include spinach, rhubarb, and coffee. Heavy consumption of coffee is a common contributing factor to stone formation. In addition, many of us do not drink the eight glasses of water that we need each day. This is probably the greatest contributing factor to urinary tract stones.
Urinary tract infections (UTI's) account for 6 million health care visits annually in the United States alone. These infections can involve any part of the urinary system and can be associated with bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Bacteria, especially the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium, are by far the most common organisms found in UTI's. Women suffer from UTI's more often than men because their urethra is shorter allowing organisms to more easily enter the urinary tract.
Urinary Tract Infections
The symptoms of UTI's can include frequent urination, burning, fever, discomfort in the lower abdomen, and frequent urination at night. UTI's are more common during pregnancy, when urinary tract stones are present, and in men who have prostate problems. (More on the prostate later.)
Urinary incontinence refers to the loss of urine without voluntary control. It has been estimated that 20% of the elderly and 50% of nursing home residents suffer from this condition. In fact, urinary incontinence is one of the most common reasons why elderly people are put in nursing homes.
Stress and urge incontinence are the two most common types. In stress incontinence, a small amount of urine is involuntarily released by coughing, laughing, or straining as when lifting a heavy object. This type is commonly seen in post-menopausal women, after pregnancy, and in men after prostatic surgery.
About 70% of urinary incontinence is of the urge type, where uncontrollable bladder contractions lead to a need to urinate accompanied by an inability to hold the urine. The causes include neurological problems such as strokes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, bladder or pelvic tumors, UTI's, and urinary stones.
The most common reason that the elderly are put in nursing homes is
urinary tract infections.
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