Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common in the human body caused by bacteria/fungi, affecting the Urinary system. Urinary Tract comprises has kidneys, ureters (which drain the waste into the bladder), bladder (which collects the urine), and a urethra (which drains the urine from the bladder out of the body).
Two types of UTIs.
Infection of the Lower tract– affecting the bladder and urethra- termed cystitis and urethritis. Caused by microbes traveling from the anal and vulval regions invading the bladder.
Infection of the Upper tract – affecting the ureters and kidneys – termed pyelonephritis. Caused by microbes traveling from bladder upwards. This can also be caused by microbes traveling through the bloodstream and settling in the kidneys.
Women are more prone to UTIs than men. A shorter urethra in women, and proximity to the vaginal and anal regions, provide a convenient passage for the microbes into the bladder.
Women with the following conditions/habits are at a greater risk of contracting UTIs.
- Being sexually active- causing the microbes to move upwards from the vaginal region into the urethra or bladder
- Use of contraceptives- condoms, diaphragms with spermicidal creams can kill good bacteria which protect against UTI.
- Urine incontinency- inability to empty the bladder completely. Un-cleared urine with microbes can cause UTI.
- Pregnancy – Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause an imbalance of microbial flora in the urinary tract leading to infection.
- Menopause – Loss of Oestrogen during menopause renders the vaginal tissues to become dry, facilitating the growth of microbes causing UTI.
- Diabetes – can affect the immune system leading to urine incontinency, causing UTI.
- Kidney stones – preventing the flow of urine from kidneys to the bladder, causing retention, leading to UTI.
- Urinary catheter – inserted to drain a blocked bladder can cause UTI.
- Medical Procedures – involving the urinary tract can cause UTI.
- Poor hygiene – can promote the growth of microbes near the anal, vulval and vaginal regions leading to UTI.
- Antibiotics – for treatment of any other infections which possibly alter the natural microbial flora of the Urinary tract.
Symptoms of UTI
- Severe burning sensation and pain while passing urine.
- Frequent urge to pass urine but unable to.
- Pressure in the lower abdominal region.
- Cloudy, foul-smelling urine.
- Passage of blood with urine. Common in younger women.
- Tiredness, weakness, and feeling confused. Common in older women.
- Constant fever. Indicates infection of kidneys.
- Pain in the lower back area, around the kidneys, and pelvic region.
A urine sample is required to determine the presence of a UTI. A procedure called “Clean Catch” is used to collect urine. The genital area is first cleaned with a special wipe to prevent microbes from contaminating the sample. A midstream of urine sample is collected and presented for culture to determine the incidence of UTI.
If the woman has had a previous history of UTI, further tests like Cystogram or Cystoscopic examination would be recommended to determine the presence of any other disease or condition of the urinary tract.
Based on the culture reports, the Healthcare professional prescribes a set of antibiotics to treat UTI. Lower Tract infections are treated with a 3-day course of antibiotics.
The more complicated Upper Tract infections require a 10-14 day course of antibiotics.
Severe and complicated Upper Tract infections require antibiotics to be administered intravenously.
Pregnant women and women with other health conditions that affect the immune system require taking antibiotics for more extended periods.
Some commonly used antibiotics for UTI treatment comprise Nitrofurantoin, Sulfa drugs, Amoxicillin, Cephalosporins, Doxycycline, Trimethoprim, Quinolones.
Frequent UTI in women
Some women are prone to repeated infections. To prevent this, they are prescribed,
- A single antibiotic dose is to be taken after sexual intercourse.
- Single-dose a day for 6 months.
- 2-3 day antibiotic course on the reappearance of symptoms.
- Oestrogen therapy if the women have crossed menopause.
UTI During Pregnancy
Pregnant women with symptoms of UTI need to consult a healthcare professional to ensure a safe pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy elevate the risks of UTI. UTI, which is untreated in pregnant women, may lead to,
- Premature Delivery.
- Low Birthweight of the infant.
- Pre-eclampsia toxemia is a dangerous condition characterized by high blood pressure leading to complications and fatality for both mother and infant.
Prevention of UTI
Certain habits and steps can be followed to prevent the occurrence of UTI in women. These can potentially lower the risk of repeated UTI.
- Urinating before and after sexual intercourse.
- Urinating at frequent intervals to prevent retention.
- Washing the private parts and wiping from front to back, thus preventing microbes in the anal region from spreading to the vaginal area.
- Drinking plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated.
- Avoiding douching of the vagina.
- Avoiding the use of perfume or hygiene sprays around genitals.
- Avoiding the use of spermicidal creams if known to be the cause of UTI.
- Use cotton underpants to prevent the trapping of moisture in the genital region.
- Use sanitary pads or menstrual cups instead of tampons.
Maintenance of hygiene is of utmost importance in the prevention of UTI. Discussing with the healthcare professional in case of detection of symptoms and timely treatment can prevent the severity and complications.
Play safe. Prevent UTI