Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is one of the most common urinary disorders in women and ranks amongst the most prevalent bacterial infections. It’s regarded as a major health hazard. By definition, a UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system. Usually, it starts as a vaginal infection. Though mostly the infection involves the lower part of the urinary tract, the bladder and the urethra, it affects kidneys and ureters as well.
What makes women more prone to UTI?
It’s the anatomy. Women have a shorter urethra (the opening to the urinary tract) than men. It means that bacteria have a shorter distance to travel. Yet another reason that puts women at risk is the proximity between their urethra and rectum. Bacteria in the rectum can easily reach the urethra and cause infections.
Some women experience recurring UTI. A recurring UTI is one in which a woman gets infected three times in a year or twice in six months.
What are the causes of UTI?
As we’ve already seen, UTI is the result of bacteria entering the urinary tract through the urethra. Afterwards, they begin to multiply in the bladder. Though the urinary system has its own defensive mechanism against these microscopic invaders, sometimes it fails in effectively curbing them.
The most common forms of UTIs that occur in women are: 1)Infection of the bladder (cystitis) and 2) Infection of the urethra (urethritis). Let’s now look at the causes of these two types of UTIs.
Cystitis: The UTI is caused by E. coli bacteria which are commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Occasionally, some other bacteria too are responsible for cystitis. While sexual intercourse may lead to this type of UTI, women who are not sexually active also get it. All women are at risk of getting cystitis because of their anatomy.
Urethritis: This is caused by GI bacteria when they spread from the anus to the urethra. The other conditions that cause urethritis are sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and mycoplasma.
Risk factors for UTI include female anatomy, sexual activity, certain types of birth control, menopause, urinary tract abnormalities, blockages in the urinary tract, a suppressed immune system, catheter use, a recent urinary procedure.
What are the symptoms of UTI?
The symptoms of UTI differ based on the part of the urinary tract that is affected.
If the kidneys are affected, the symptoms are as follows:
- Upper back and side pain
- High fever
- Shaking and chills
If the bladder is affected, the symptoms are these:
- Pelvic pressure
- Lower abdomen discomfort
- Frequent, painful urination
- Blood in urine
If the urethra is infected, the symptoms that usually follow are burning sensation while urinating and discharge.
Diagnosis and treatment of UTI
The diagnosis of UTI is done with the help of different tests and procedures. Some of the most common of them are: 1) Analysing a urine sample 2) Growing urinary tract bacteria in lab 3) Creating images of your urinary tract 4) Using a cystoscope to see the inside of your bladder.
Treatment mostly involves the use of antibiotics. Vaginal oestrogen therapy is suggested in postmenopausal women. If the infection is severe, you’ll be treated with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital.
What are the options to reduce your risk of UTI?
- Drink plenty of water
- Drink cranberry juice
- Wipe from front to back
- Maintain local hygiene
- Empty bladder soon after intercourse
- Change birth control method
It’s estimated that at least 50% to 60% of women get infected with UTI at least once in their life. While a woman is more prone to get it, a lot can be done to prevent UTI.