Urinary system comprises of Kidneys, Ureters (that conduct waste fluids from kidneys into the bladder), Bladder (that stores urine) and the Urethra (that pushes out the urine). Infection to any of these organs is called Urinary Tract Infection. Some consider vaginal infection also to be a part of UTI. Women usually are at higher risk of acquiring UTIs. Medical experts believe that 50% of women acquire Urinary Tract Infection during their life time whereas only 10% men suffer from this condition. Many women get infected repeatedly.
Urinary Tract Infections – Types, Causes and Treatment Options
Symptoms of UTIs
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Increased frequency of visiting the restroom.
- Change in colour of the urine to cloudy, dark or sometimes bloody with foul smell.
- Fatigued feeling
- Fever or chills (this happens in severe cases when the infection has reached the kidneys)
- Pain in lower back or abdomen.
Types of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Urethritis – Infection to the urethra
- Cystitis – Infection of the bladder. The person may feel like they have to urinate a lot and it hurts when he/she urinates. This may be accompanied by pain in lower abdomen or he/she may notice bloody urine.
- Pyelonephritis – Infection of the kidneys. A serious condition which cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and pain on the upper back side. (where kidneys are located).
- Vaginitis – Infection of the vagina
What causes UTI?
- Not following proper hygiene is one major cause of UTI. After passing stools, a person must neatly wipe/wash the whole area. Not doing so can cause bacteria (especially Escherichia coli / E .coli) enter the urethra causing the infection.
- Women have a smaller urethra compared to men. This makes easier for the bacteria or other microbes enter the bladder easily and quickly causing infection.
- Sexually transmitted infections such as Mycoplasma or Chlamydia can also cause Urinary Tract Infection. In this case, both the partners should get tested and treated.
- Women with diabetes or with weak immune system find it difficult to fight off the infection in their body. They are at higher risk of acquiring UTI.
- Other conditions such as hormonal changes, multiple sclerosis and other factors that affect the flow of urine from kidneys to the bladder and out of the body can cause UTI. (Kidney stones that block the urine flow from the kidneys or stones that form in the bladder and obstruct the flow of urine can cause UTI).
Risk factors for developing UTIs
- Sexually active women are more vulnerable. Always use necessary protection and clean your genitals before and after the act.
- UTIs can also occur due to the usage of catheters at doctor’s office.
- People with diabetes, men with prostate problems such as enlarged prostate gland
- Babies with birth defects in their urinary tract
UTI in children
UTI in children should be taken more seriously when compared to that of adults. This can be caused due to ‘Urinary Reflux’. (similar to acid reflux in stomach). Urinary Reflux is a condition where the urine flows back to the kidneys from the bladder. This increases the risk of kidney infection and if left untreated, can result in kidney failure. Urinary Reflux can also lead to high blood pressure and toxaemia in pregnancy.
Diagnosis of UTIs
A simple urine test can confirm most UTIs caused by bacteria. If you happen to see any of the above said symptoms, you must rush to a good urologist or urogynecologist near you and get tested. If the UTIs are recurring, you must inform your doctor. He/she may go for an ultrasound or a CT Scan or an MRI to look for any possible serious conditions to any of the organs.
Treatment of UTIs
Antibiotics to fight off bacterial and yeast infections is the most common treatment prescribed. If you are diagnosed with UTI, make sure you complete the full medication course and drink lot of fluids and water all the time. Having good amount of water and fluids, flushes out the infection and bacteria out of the body reducing the risk of infection.
Vaccines or medicines to boost the immune system may also be prescribed in cases where there is recurring or chronic UTI. If a man gets UTI, there is a possibility that he will get infected again at least one more time. Similarly 20% of women can get re-infected. Certain types of bacteria enter the body, multiply and form colonies. They eventually become anti-biotic resistant and keep infecting the urinary tract organs. For those who suffer from frequent UTIs, non-antibiotic prophylaxis treatment may be prescribed as a preventive measure.
How to prevent re-infection of UTIs
- Empty your bladder completely and wash your genitals every time.
- Always keep your bottom clean. It is better to take a shower than to use a bath tub.
- Do not use any chemicals, perfumes or even clothing that can irritate your genitals. For example, tight nylon under garments will not absorb the moisture providing perfect environment for bacterial growth.
- Clean your genitals and bottom before and after intercourse.
- Always complete the course of antibiotics prescribed. You should not leave it mid-way once the symptoms start to fade. That can lead to re-infection or the bacteria may become resistant to that antibiotic.
It is important that you should not ignore even the slightest of the symptoms if they persist for more than two days. Ignoring UTI can lead to kidney damage and the urologist may have to remove the damaged kidney. It is also important to look for a good urologist near you if you don’t have a family doctor.