Self-Care & Motivation

Urinary Tract Infections : A Burning Topic

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

A UTI is an infection of your urinary tract where bacteria gets into your urine and travels up to your bladder. The role of the urinary tract is to make and store urine until it is emptied by urinating through the urethra, which is a tube that connects the bladder to the skin. When you have a UTI, the lining of the bladder and urethra become red and irritated just as your throat does when you have a cold. The irritation can cause pain in your lower abdomen pelvic area and even lower back, and will usually make you feel like urinating more often.

What are the different Types of Urinary Tract Infections?

  1. Urethritis: Infection that occurs in the Urethra.
  2. Vaginitis: Infection that occurs in the Vagina
  3. Cystitis: Infection that occurs in the Bladder
  4. Pyelonephritis: Infection that occurs in the Kidneys
The Urinary System

What are the Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections?

Not everyone who has UTI experiences signs and symptoms but in some cases where the onset does occur, Symptoms include -

  • A strong urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Pelvic pain in women
  • Rectal pain in men
  • Cloudy urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Strong smell in urine
  • Tea or Cola coloured Urine
UTI Symptoms

Who Is At Risk of having UTIs?

While UTI can affect anyone, there are some risk factors that increase your chances of developing the condition.

These risk factors may include:

  1. Sex: Women are at higher risk of UTIs than men. Most women may also experience it more than one time.
  2. Urinary Tract Abnormalities: Some babies are born with some urinary tract abnormalities that affect the proper functioning and increase the chances of UTIs.
  3. Immune System: People who have a suppressed immune system due to conditions like diabetes are more prone to UTIs.
  4. Blockage in Urinary Tract: Kidney stones or enlarged prostate may also be potential reasons for urinary tract infection.
  5. Catheter: Those who are hospitalized or have disorders like paralysis use catheter (tube) for urination have higher chances of developing UTI.
  6. Prior Urinary Procedure: Urinary surgery or exam of urinary tract increases your risk of UTIs.

How are UTIs caused?

The cause of urinary tract infections come from various types of bacteria or viruses that enter the urinary tract through urethra. Once inside the body, these microbes multiply and the symptoms start to appear. Usually, our body has natural defences against these microbes but they may fail sometimes and the microbes lead to infection in the urinary tract.

How Are Urinary Tract Infections Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of urinary tract infections is done by the following tests and procedures:

  • Urine Sample Testing: A urine sample is taken to analyze and look for WBCs, RBCs, or bacteria. It is often suggested to wipe the genital region first so that possible contamination of the urine sample can be prevented.
  • Urine Culture: In this urinary tract infections test, the UTI bacteria will be grown in the lab. It helps in knowing the underlying cause, and selecting the medicines which will be most effective in killing the bacteria.
  • Imaging tests: Various imaging tests like computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), etc. are done to know if any abnormality is causing your symptoms.
  • Cystoscopy: A cystoscope is tube, with an attached lens, that is inserted in the urethra. If you get infected frequently, your doctor may use a cystoscope to see what is inside your urethra and bladder that is causing the infection.

How Are Urinary Tract Infections Treated?

Depending on the cause for the infection (Bacteria, Viruses), the physician prescribes specific medications targeted at the actual cause for the infection and alleviate the symptoms. The form of  used to treat a bacterial UTI usually depends on which part of the tract is involved.

1) Lower tract UTIs can usually be treated with oral antibiotics.

2) Upper tract UTIs require intravenous antibiotics. These antibiotics are put directly into your veins.

Sometimes, bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, so to reduce your risk of antibiotic resistance, your doctor will likely put you on the shortest treatment course possible. Treatment typically lasts no more than 1 week. Results from your urine culture can help your doctor select an antibiotic treatment that will work best against the type of bacteria that’s causing your infection.

How Can Urinary Tract Infections be Prevented?

Urinary tract infections prevention can be done by following the below mentioned measures:

  • Drink ample amounts of liquid. Liquids, especially water, dilute the urine. They also make a person urinate frequently, which helps in flushing the infection causing bacteria out of your urinary tract.
  • After passing stools or urinating, wipe it from front to back. This helps in preventing the movement of bacteria of anal area to other regions.
  • Empty the Bladder after Sexual Intercourse.
  • Avoid using products like deodorant sprays, powders, douches on your intimate parts that may cause irritation.
  • Choose your birth control method carefully. Some methods can facilitate bacterial growth.

FAQs

1. Why do we get UTIs?

Most UTIs are single events that, if treated, will not come back. Some patients have anatomical and genetic predispositions that tend to make getting UTIs more likely.

2. When should we be worried?

If you are being treated for a UTI and are not getting better, or you have symptoms of a UTI along with upset stomach and throwing up, or fever and chills, then you should call your healthcare provider. If you ever see blood in your urine, you should call your healthcare provider right away.

3. Will a UTI cause damage to the kidneys?

If the UTI is treated early, then there will likely be no lasting effect on your urinary tract. UTIs can cause harm if not found and treated quickly.

Bottomline

A UTI is not generally cause for alarm. But if you think you have one, seek medical treatment. It’s possible for it to escalate and cause a kidney infection that affects your entire body. If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s probably because you’re having uncomfortable symptoms. Proper treatment of the infection should resolve most of your discomfort within 48 hours. Wearing loose-fitting, cotton underwear and washing frequently can help keep the infection from coming back. Pain in the low back or side below your ribs and feeling shaky and weak are symptoms you should not ignore. If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor.

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