Have you ever noticed that you are experiencing a burning sensation when you pee? If yes, then you might be suffering from a urinary tract infection.
Urinary tract infections are common problems that are encountered and treated regularly by doctors in medical practice. They can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and require urgent treatment. Urinary infections if not treated on time can lead to spread of the infection into the bloodstream and damage to the kidney and other vital structures.
In this article, we shall briefly cover what a urinary tract infection is, what the causes of the infection are and how it can be managed and prevented.
The Urinary Tract
Before we jump into what a urinary tract infection is, it is important to understand the normal urinary system.
The urinary system is a complex filtering system that allows blood to be filtered in the kidneys and be converted into urine. This urine is then passed to the urinary bladder from each kidney through a tube called the ureter.
Once the bladder is sufficiently full, the urine is then passed out from the bladder to the outside through the urethra. This takes place through contraction of the urinary bladder.
In men, the urethra is longer than in women. Furthermore, it is located closer to the anal area in women than in men. As you may know, the anal area is not the most hygienic part of the human body.
Any bacteria that may be present in the anal area may migrate upwards through the urethra and cause an infection. This especially occurs if the area is wiped with a tissue from the back to the front. The shorter the distance it needs to travel, the more frequent the infection. It is for this reason that urinary infections are more common in women than in men.
What Is A Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection is an infection of any part of the urinary system. It includes not just an infection of the bladder but also an infection of the kidneys as well.
What Causes A Urinary Tract Infection?
The most common cause of a urinary tract infection, also called UTI, is an organism called E. coli. However, there may be other reasons why urinary infections may develop as well.
Urinary infections tend to be more common in women as compared to men. Those who have diabetes are especially prone to develop these infections, and they can recur frequently. Women who have recently been married or are experiencing sexual activity for the first time can also develop infections of the urinary tract (this is sometimes called honeymoon cystitis).
What Are The Symptoms Of A Urinary Infection?
The most common symptom that patients encountered as a burning sensation when passing urine.
In addition to this, patients may also experience increased frequency of urination and a need to rush to the bathroom when they need to pass urine.
The urine that is passed may be cloudy in colour or may even contain blood. The urine is particularly foul smelling.
If the infection is significant, patients may experience a high fever over 100°F that is associated with chills. Severe fatigue and tiredness may set in as well.
The urine infection can ascend upwards from the bladder into the kidneys leading to a serious condition called pyelonephritis. Those who have this problem may experience low back pain. Pyelonephritis usually requires admission to hospital for treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
Diagnosis Of Urinary Tract Infections
Normally, a doctor can diagnose a urinary infection from clinical history alone. However, a confirmatory diagnosis will need to be made through a routine urine examination.
Urine examinations can help reveal the presence of pus cells or blood. If an infection is present, your doctor may request performing a urine culture test which can help determine the type of organism that is causing the urinary infection.
If there is a clinical suspicion of pyelonephritis, additional investigations such as an ultrasound scan of the abdomen may be required. This can help reveal the presence of any infection in the kidney.
To obtain more clarity, a CT scan of the kidneys and the urinary tract may be performed. This can sometimes guide the duration of antibiotic therapy.
Treatment Of Urinary Tract Infections
First and foremost, those who have a urinary infection must consume large amounts of water regularly. This can help flush the bacteria out of the urinary tract and clear off the infection effectively.
If you have severe pain, your doctor may prescribe painkillers for you.
The definitive treatment of urinary tract infections is antibiotics. Antibiotics can destroy the organism that is causing the infection and can help reduce and even resolve the symptoms quickly in a safe and effective manner.
Previously, it was believed that consuming cranberry juice on a regular basis could reduce or even treat urinary infections. However, recent clinical studies have not found any real benefit with respect to this.
Women who have diabetes are more prone to developing recurrent urinary infections. This can become extremely hard to treat as they require multiple courses of antibiotics. Sometimes, the organism that is causing the urinary infection can change and become resistant to all antibiotics. Over time, recurring urinary infections can result in reduced immunity as well.
Those who have chronic urinary infections i.e. recurrent urinary infections over the years sometimes require a review by a urologist. A prolonged course of antibiotics given in low doses over a period of months can help prevent recurring infections.
Some women may be advised an antibiotic immediately after sexual activity as this can be a trigger.
Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
If you are prone to developing a urinary infection, it is important to take all the steps necessary to prevent them from recurring.
Make sure you don’t wait till your bladder is completely full to pass urine. Instead, pass urine more frequently even if you pass only small amounts. This way, an empty bladder and the absence of urine does not allow the organism to grow and lead to a full-blown urinary infection.
When wiping the genital area, always make sure you use tissue and wipe from front to back. If you wipe the other way, you risk transferring the bacteria from the anal area to the urinary area.
Make sure you are well hydrated and drink plenty of water.
Following sexual activity, make sure you urinate in order to expel any bacteria that may have entered the urethra.
Finally, wear clean and hygienic clothing and avoid wearing tight clothing as this can increase moisture levels and create an environment that is suitable for bacterial growth.
Urinary infections are a common problem, and can be quite a nuisance as they tend to recur. Taking timely treatment and following the right preventative measures can ensure you do not suffer from this problem.
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