1 in 2 Women Develop UTIs in Their Lifetimes! Know How to Keep Yourself Safe!
A UTI or a urinary tract infection is something that has terrorised women since the very beginning of humanity. While it is quite common, it is an equally painful and inconvenient experience that needs to be dealt with immediately.
There have been quite a few times when you must have felt like dropping your pants and squatting in a pool of icy water. Those times are when you might have a UTI - Urinary Tract Infection. But in all seriousness, a urinary tract infection is like hell in your “hoo-haa” and you cannot really tell everyone you meet like you would if it were a headache. If you're a woman, your chance of getting a urinary tract infection, or UTI, is high; You must have had this at some point of time in life, but if you haven’t, this is what it really is.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection that affects your urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and the urethra. Most UTIs only involve the urethra and the bladder.
This infection is mostly caused by Escherichia coli (E. Coli) a type of bacteria usually found in the digestive system. It is characterized by pain in the lower abdomen, at times a lingering pain in your sides, and a burning sensation while urinating, which can be experienced by both, adults as well as children.
It’s estimated that about 60 percent of women have had at least one UTI in their lifetime. There are three types of infections depending on the organ they affect.
Cystitis - Infection of the bladder. This type of UTI is usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Urethritis - Infection of the urethra This can occur when bacteria present in the bowels and the digestive system spread from the anus to the urethra. Sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma, can also cause urethritis.
Acute pyelonephritis - Infection of the kidneys. It is characterised by flank pain, fever, and nausea and affects the kidneys.
Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections.
Urinary Tract Infections are caused by:
Anatomical Design in Women, characterised by the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder. This makes women more susceptible to developing a UTI than men
Resisting the urge to visit the toilet.
Antibiotics prescribed by a urologist or gynaecologist.
Home remedies such as consumption of adequate quantities of liquids, apple cider vinegar, coconut water and cranberries.
Who is At Risk of a UTI?
Certain people or groups are more susceptible to urinary tract infections:
People with conditions that block the normal flow of urine, such as kidney stones
People with medical conditions that cause the bladder to not completely be empty (for example, spinal cord injuries or a tendency to hold back urine
Menopausal women: A decline in circulation of estrogen renders the urinary tract vulnerable to a UTI
People with weakened immune systems: People who have diabetes or HIV AIDS are have compromised immunity. Those who take immunosuppressant medication such as chemotherapy for cancer are also at increased risk.
Sexually active women: Sexual intercourse can introduce larger numbers of bacteria into the bladder.
Women using a diaphragm for birth control
Pregnant women: Pregnant women are at risk due to their compromised immunity and prenatal checks should frequently be done since an unrecognised infection can cause health complications.
Men with Prostatitis: Obstruction of the urethra by an enlarged prostate can lead to incomplete bladder emptying, thus increasing the risk of infection.
Infants and newborns: Bacteria gain access to the urinary tract via the bloodstream from other sites in the body.
Young children: Young children have trouble washing and wiping themselves and cleaning their hands well after a bowel movement. Poor hygiene often leads to urinary tract infections.
Vesicoureteral reflux in children: It is a condition in which urine moves backwards from the bladder up the ureters.
Patients using catheters: Patients using catheters: A thin tube called a catheter is kept in the urethra for the passage of urine from the bladder. People who cannot urinate on their own have catheters.Bacteria can travel along the catheter and cause an infection in your bladder; in that case, it is called a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (or “CA-UTI”).
Causes of a UTI
Urine is normally sterile. An infection is caused when bacteria get into the urine and begin to grow. The infection usually starts at the opening of the urethra where the urine leaves the body and moves upward into the urinary tract.
Contagion resulting from anatomical design:
All women are at risk of cystitis because of the short distance from the urethra to the anus and also the urethral opening to the bladder. Whenever you use unclean public toilets, you put yourself at risk of infection. This is the reason women are instructed to wipe from front to behind to avoid introduction of bacteria in the urinary tract.
Sexual Intercourse :
A research conducted in the year 2017 shows that urinating before intercourse may also introduce bacteria into the urine system, (especially if intercourse is frequent, intense, and with multiple or new partners). You should always practise safe sex. However, unlubricated condoms may increase irritation in the vagina and increase the risk of a UTI. According to a research, the use of spermicide also increases the chances of contracting a UTI because, the 'good' bacteria that exist in the vagina can be destroyed by these spermicides, leaving the infection causing bacteria to grow in the bladder, which creates an infection.
Making sure that your genitals are kept clean and dry is important to check the growth and initiation of bacteria into the urinary tract.
Holding urine for too long in the bladder:
Not emptying the bladder for a long period of time obstructs the natural flow of urine and can harbour bacteria.
Did You Know?
Lack of proper hygiene during periods can also cause UTI during or after periods. Wiping the genitals and the anus back to front can lead to frequent UTIs in women.
Women generally crave sweet, spicy or caffeinated food during menstruation. Certain foods such as caffeine-rich food and drinks, refined flour and sugary items may aggravate the symptoms of a UTI.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
There are certain bodily conditions that are characteristic of a UTI.
Dysuria: A burning sensation while urination and a while after.
Restlessness or feeling tired and shaky.
Unexplained urinary urgency: A frequent and pressing urge to urinate in despite the bladder being empty
Recurring pain and pressure over the lower abdomen and the sides, as the lining of the urethra and bladder, becomes inflamed and irritated.
Pain that feels like it generates in the sides and travels to the lower abdomen or the entire pelvic region.
Flank pain: Pain in the back or side, usually on only one side at about the waist level and below.
Newborns: Mild fever and malaise or low temperature, poor feeding and general irritability.
Children: Along with the ones as mentioned above for adults, children with UTI may also display irritability, loss of appetite, fever, loss of bowel control, loose bowels, and change in the urination pattern such as increased or decreased frequency.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections:
Usually, the symptoms of a UTI are pretty clear, although sometimes they may not manifest in the same way and can also be misunderstood or misrepresented. Thus, it is best to consult a doctor immediately and undergo the suggested tests. Since bacteria typically cause urinary tract infections, they are best treated with antibiotics. The type of medication and treatment and the duration of treatment will depend on the patient's symptoms and history.
Health-care individuals and doctors perform various tests which can be broadly divided into the following categories.
Analyzing a urine sample.
The doctor requires a urine sample for lab analysis to look for white blood cells, red blood cells or bacteria. Various tests can be undertaken:
Urine dipstick test
Growing urinary tract bacteria in a lab.
Taking images of the urinary tract.
If you have recurring infections that may be caused by an abnormality in your urinary tract, or if your infection has reached the upper urinary tract, you may require getting an imaging test to detect any underlying problems in the Urinary Tract. However, this is quite rare.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound examination can evaluate kidney and bladder problems.
Fluoroscopic study: A fluoroscopic study can show any physical problems that predispose children to urinary tract infections.
Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): It is a special series of X-rays that uses a contrast dye to highlight abnormalities in the urinary tract.
Computerized Tomography:(CT scan): A CT scan gives a very detailed three-dimensional picture of the urinary tract.
Using a scope to see inside the bladder.
If you have chronic or repetitive UTIs, your doctor may advise you to get a cystoscopy done, using a long, thin and flexible tube with a camera lens called a cystoscope to see inside your urethra and bladder. The cystoscope is inserted through the urethra and passed to your bladder. This is called a cystoscopy.
What Kind of Doctors Treat UTIs?
Primary-care physicians, your good old family doctor, an internal medicine specialist, your trusty gynaecologist or your child’s favourite paediatrician; all can treat you well. However, the most qualified doctor would be a Urinary Tract specialist known as a Urologist.
When Should You Visit a Doctor?
Self-medication is a big no-no, and there is no bravery in enduring the pain. Symptoms of UTIs usually resolve and simmer down after 24 hours under medication. Thus, immediate help should be availed. If symptoms persist and you also have a fever, a specialist should be sought.
Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections: What drugs are typically prescribed for Urinary Tract Infections?
Antibiotics are the usual treatment for urinary tract infections. The type of medicine prescribed and for how long depends on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine. Please note that you must consult your doctor before consumption of any of these medicines.
Uncomplicated infection: Drugs commonly recommended for simple UTIs include:
Frequent infections: If you have recurring and chronic UTIs, your doctor may suggest:
Low-dose antibiotics, typically for six months but sometimes longer
Self-diagnosis and treatment, provided you stay in touch with your doctor
A single dose of antibiotic after intercourse if your infections seem to be pertaining to sexual activity
Vaginal estrogen therapy post menopause.
Severe infections: For a severe or a complicated UTI, you may need treatment with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital. “Complicated” indicates a problem with your urinary tract. You could have a narrowing of your ureters, a blockage like a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate (in men). To treat a complicated infection, you might be prescribed a higher or longer dose of antibiotics.
Prevention and Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections
Fortunately, prevention of Urinary Tract Infections and home remedies are easy to practice. There are various ways of avoiding a UTI or recovering wholly and quickly from one. However, the best solution is consumption of adequate amounts of water and liquids.
Cranberries contain an ingredient that can stop bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract.
Drink plenty of water.
Empty your bladder frequently and visit the toilet when you need to.
Taking probiotics helps in healthy digestion and may prevent a UTI.
Take more vitamin C as it strengthens the immune system so that your body can fight the infection.
Apple cider vinegar makes the urine acidic and checks the growth of bacteria, making it easier to flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
Foods to avoid during a UTI
Certain foods must be avoided in order to heal better, during a Urinary Tract Infection.
Coffee: Caffeine is known to irritate the bladder and worsen bladder infection symptoms.
Alcohol: Alcohol dehydrates the body. You should not consume alcohol during a urinary tract infection since your body requires adequate levels of fluid to recover.
Sodas and caffeinated drinks: Sodas are known to cause irritation to the bladder and could aggravate symptoms in people having bladder infections.
Acidic Fruits: Acidic fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, tomatoes and oranges have a high acid content which irritates the bladder.
Spicy Food: Spicy food also may worsen the symptoms of a UTI.
Probiotics for Urinary Tract Infections
These days, the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections have grown multiresistant. Such bacteria resist all efforts to curb the infection that they cause, thus leaving the traditional medicine ineffective. Also, it is not advised to subject your body to antibiotics frequently. According to a research, probiotics may be the answer to recurring urinary tract infections (RUTI). Gut flora( the beneficial microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans) is an important barrier to infection. With bacterial flora, the body is defended through a balance between non-pathogenic bacteria and pathogenic bacteria. Probiotics can be found as OTCs(Over the counter medicines) and mainly, in yoghurt.
Vaccination for Urinary Tract Infections
Medical researchers have come up with a vaccine to combat the bacteria that cause Urinary Tract Infections. The treatment is administered as a mouth spray under the tongue.It helps to prepare the body against pathogens, and could significantly reduce the use of antibiotics. This also helps to tackle the problem of bacteria resisting traditional antibiotics. The lead researcher of this study, Dr Steve Foley suggests that this vaccine will be very effective in women without any significant ill – effects. If you have a urinary tract infection, remember to consume lots of fluids and try out the home remedies listed above. If the pain persists, do not hesitate to visit a doctor. It can be a little irritating and painful for a while, but, the treatment and recovery are quick and easy.