Urinary tract infection or UTI is one of the most common infections affecting millions of women around the world. The infection can occur in the bladder, kidneys, small tube called as ureters and urethra. Often urinary bladder and urethra becomes the target for bacterial infection. More than 50% of women would have had UTI at some point of their life. It causes symptoms of burning pain while passing urine and frequent urination. UTI can be completely treated with medications.
- Many times urinary tract infection goes unnoticed due to lack of symptoms. If the immunity is strong you may not even notice that you have had an infection.
- Some of the signs of UTI include persistent urge for urination, burning pain while urinating and foul smelling urine. The urine may not be normal as before and it can be cloudy or bright pink colored.
- For some women UTI can cause pelvic pain focused in the central pelvic region.
Causes Of Urinary Tract Infection :
Several factors and medications can trigger urinary tract infection. Very often UTI is caused by E. coli bacterium and Chlamydia. Bacteria enter the tract through vagina or through other sources and begin to grow in the bladder. Under normal condition, the body’s defense mechanism will fight and destroy the micro-organisms, but sometimes due to weakened immunity, bacteria can quickly grow multifold.
Bladder infection can occur when the bad bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract enters the bladder. Cystitis is the term given for bladder infection which can also be caused by sexual intercourse. Women’s anatomy increases the risk of cystitis due to the short distance between the opening of bladder and anus. Infection can easily spread from the anus/rectum into the vagina and travel towards the bladder.
Urethral infection is known as urethritis which can occur either from the invasion of bacteria within the body (from gastrointestinal tract) or outside the body through sex. Chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhea infections can occur by having sex with affected person (s).
Who Are At Risk ?
- Every woman is at risk of having UTI owing to the placement of organs closer. About 20-30% of women are prone to develop repeated UTI.
- Pregnant women are at increased risk of UTI and it can become severe, if left untreated.
- Sexually active men/women are at high risk of developing UTI.
- Women using contraceptives (in any form) and in menopause ages can develop this infection.
- People with multiple sex partners and those who follow poor personal hygiene are at higher risk than others.
- People who are using catheter and those with problems in the bladder and bowel incontinence are at high risk of UTI.
- Those with kidney diseases and those who undergo urinary tract procedures often are highly prone to develop urinary tract infection.
- People with weak immunity and those with chronic diabetes and those who are using antibiotics frequently are at risk of UTI.
- People who have undergone recent surgery in the GI tract are at increased risk of UTI.
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UTI Types :
Based on the part affected, UTI can be classified into many types.
- Pyelonephritis is the medical term given for kidney infection which can cause symptoms of high fever, chills, flank pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of weight.
- Cystitis can cause bloody discharge in urine, frequent urination, and lower abdominal pain.
- When urethra is affected it is called as urethritis which can cause symptoms of burning pain while passing urine and foul smelling vaginal discharge.
Your doctor may listen to your symptoms to decide on UTI in most of the cases. However, in some cases urine test can be ordered to check the growth of bacteria in the urine. In severe cases CT scan or MRI scan can be done to get exact picture of the urinary tract. For some people cystoscopy will be done to view the inner portions of bladder and urethra.
Urinary Tract Infection Treatment :
- Since UTI is predominantly a bacterial infection, antibiotics are recommended.
- For mild to moderate kinds of UTI drugs like bactrim, sulfamethoxazole, nitrofurantoin, cephalexin and similar drugs are given. Medications like ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin are not prescribed for mild cases of urinary infection.
- Make sure that you are completing the medications given by your doctor failing which infection can recur.
- Type of medication given will be decided by your doctor based on several factors like your age, health condition and type of bacteria causing the infection.
- If there is severe burning pain while urinating, your doctor may recommend an analgesic for numbing the bladder temporarily while urinating.
- In severe case of infection, you will be treated as in-patient in the hospital and intravenous fluids with medications are given promptly to prevent spread of infection to other vital organs.
Generally, UTI can be treated and cured completely. But if left untreated it can cause some complications like partial kidney damage, repeated urinary infections, pregnancy complications and premature delivery of baby. In rare cases, UTI can cause potentially dangerous condition called sepsis shock which can be mortal.
Urinary Tract Infection Prevention :
- Drink lots of water and fluids so that urine gets diluted and toxins can be removed.
- Always make sure that you are wiping from front portion to the back after passing stool or urine to prevent entry of germs.
- Avoid having sexual intercourse with strange persons and multiple partners.
- Empty the bladder shortly after having intercourse.
- Avoid using harsh sprays and other feminine products on private parts
- Avoid douching (repeated cleaning of vagina) since it can destroy good bacteria or interrupt the bacterial balance.