Article By: Dr Helai Gupta, Consultant, Obstretics and Gynaecologist, Rosewalk Healthcare
A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is an an infection of the urinary system. If limited to the urethra, that is the tube carrying urine outside, it’s called urethritis, and if it extends to the kidneys it’s called pyelonephritis.
In normal circumstances, urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. When bacteria from outside invades the urinary system, it causes infection and inflammation.
So how common is this infection?
Nearly 1 in every 5 women have had a UTI once in their life; it even affects men, children and the elderly! About 8-10 million people visit the doctor for UTIs yearly, and every 1 in 30 such infections can lead to a kidney infection.
If such infections keep , it can cause chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure.
So why do women get UTIs more frequently?
That’s because women have shorter urethras, the tube that carries urine out of the body. The opening of this urethra is also much closer to the anal opening in women where bacteria like E. Coli and Klebsiella are commonly found. Menstrual blood and vaginal discharge also provide a good medium for bacteria to grow.
Sometimes elderly people are unable to evacuate their bladder completely which can also lead to UTIs.
What causes a UTI?
The main culprit is usually bacteria called E. Coli but others can also cause a UTI.
What symptoms should you look out for?
UTIs most commonly present as abdominal pain and pain in the flanks, a sense of pressure in the lower abdomen, fever, bodyache and sometimes even chills. While urinating you may notice blood in your urine or foul smelling urine. An increase in the frequency of your urine and pain and burning while urinating could also indicate a UTI.
How do you diagnose a UTI?
Its important to visit a doctor if you experience these symptoms, so that they can confirm the diagnosis with a urine culture and analysis to find out which bacteria is responsible. Your doctor will also start you on the appropriate antibiotic and guide you on the dose and duration you need to take your meds for. Incomplete or empirical use of antibiotics can cause a recurrence and unnecessarily complicate the situation.
How can you prevent a UTI?
Fortunately with a few lifestyle changes you can prevent UTIs, these are:
1. Maintaining good personal hygiene and keeping the vulvovaginal area dry. Avoid washing after every act of urination, and wipe front to back with dry toilet paper.
2. Drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding sugary, or alcoholic drinks.
3. Try to urinate after sexual intercourse, and wash and dry after sexual intercourse as well.
4. Changing your birth control and menstrual products – for example, some diaphragms or even tampons and menstrual cups can cause a UTI if proper hygiene is not maintained.
5. Avoid spermicides, vaginal douching, strong soaps – these kill the normal vaginal flora that actually help fight off UTI causing , destroying your natural defence system.
6. Avoid tight fitting and synthetic underwear, switch to cotton underwear if possible so that sweat and moisture isn’t trapped.
All these simple switches will definitely reduce your chances of getting a UTI.