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Causes of Childhood Urinary Tract Infections

While many children who get urinary tract infections (UTIs) have normal kidneys and bladders, in some cases the cause of the infection is an abnormality. Causes of childhood urinary tract infections include abnormalities such as vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), urinary obstruction, and dysfunctional voiding. Tests used to identify these possible causes of childhood urinary tract infections include ultrasounds, voiding cystourethrograms, and intravenous pyelograms.

Causes of Childhood Urinary Tract Infections: An Overview

Although normal urine contains no bacteria, bacteria can get into the urinary tract and the urine from the skin around the rectum and genitals. This can occur when the bacteria travel up the urethra into the bladder. When this happens, the bacteria can infect and inflame the bladder and cause swelling and pain in the lower abdomen and side. This bladder infection is called cystitis.
 
If the bacteria travel up through the ureters to the kidneys, a kidney infection can develop, which is usually accompanied by pain and fever. Kidney infections are much more serious than bladder infections.
 
Many children who get urinary tract infections have normal kidneys and bladders. However, if a child has an abnormality, it should be detected as early as possible to protect the kidneys against damage. Abnormalities that could be the cause of childhood urinary tract infections include:
 
  • Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Dysfunctional voiding.
     
Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR)
Urine normally flows from the kidneys down the ureters to the bladder in one direction. In VUR, the urine may also flow backward from the bladder up the ureters to the kidneys. This abnormality is common in children with urinary tract infections.
 
(Click Vesicoureteral Reflux for more information.)
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