The advent of monsoons not only relieves from the blistering heat but also becomes the peak time for health issues to pop up. The sudden change in the temperature causes a reduction in the body’s immune system and makes it more vulnerable to infections. Monsoon is the apt condition, being hot and humid, for the bacteria to prosper abundantly. Females are more susceptible to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) as they have a shorter urethra than males. The bacteria from the genital area may pass into the urinary tract causing infections in the Urethra.
One particular UTI, namely Cystitis, is very common among honeymooners. Interstitial Cystitis is one such condition that leads to UTI by causing pain and inflammation, and urgent and frequent need to pass urine. Normally, UTIs are a bacterial infection in the urinary tract caused by E. coli which is passed on from the rectal area into the Urethra. During the humid conditions, cleanliness and personal hygiene of the private parts are of extreme significance.
With the hot and humid conditions apt for the bacteria, kids (especially boys) under the age of 5 years have 90% chances of developing UTI. The first noticeable abnormality is the backward flow of urine from the ureter to the kidneys allowing the bacteria present in the urine to enter into the kidneys. This condition is known as Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR) which further leads to kidney infections, damage, and scarring. The symptoms of UTI and VUR are inter-related; over 40% of the kids diagnosed with UTI will have VUR and vice-versa, especially during monsoons. The symptoms of pediatric UTI include fever, pain and burning in urination. Up to 70% of kids under the age of 5 years with UTI and fever suffer from both bladder and kidney infections. Kidney scarring is very common and can lead to high blood pressure and impaired kidney functions later in life. Children with impaired kidney functions usually have pain in the lower side and back of the affected kidney region accompanied by high fever, chills and lethargy.
UTI in adults
UTI among women is very common during monsoon and the symptoms are easily recognizable. Dysuria (pain during urination), burning sensation, urge and frequency of urination, discomfort in the lower abdomen are among the basic and common symptoms. If undiagnosed for a long time, the bacteria travel up the bladder to the kidneys causing inflammation. This condition is a very serious complication and needs immediate attention, with the highest being during menstruation. If untreated, the infection can progress to the upper tract and damage the kidneys or spread into the blood, thus reaching various body parts. This ultimately can lead to kidney diseases and affect the ovulation process and posing difficulties in conceiving. Women in their post-menopausal stage have a chance of developing Atrophic Vaginal Degeneration that raises the chances of UTI in the monsoons.
Though the risk of UTI is lesser in males, once the urethra gets infected, the bacteria travel through the genital tract (epididymis, testes, and prostate glands) and hamper sperm production. In extreme cases, it can also damage the testes permanently. Around 10% to 15% of male fertility problems are due to infections that cause a decrease in sperm count and production. The bacteria spreads and proliferates enormously during monsoon to cause infection. Another condition that leads to UTI in adults is Honeymoon Cystitis, where bacteria are transferred due to sexual intercourse, multiplying during the suitable monsoon conditions. Women are at a 4 times higher risk for UTI than men as the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra.
How it is treated?
Frequent tests are required for early diagnosis and effective treatment of UTI and VUR. As the first step of treatment, doctors start with antibiotic treatment to treat infections and help to reduce the chances of scarring that can eventually lead to renal damage. In severe cases of VUR, surgical interventions may be needed to prevent the backflow of urine.
It is feasible to prevent UTI, especially during monsoon season by following certain measures. Drinking plenty of fluids like water, fresh juices and soups as this will increase the urine flow and reduce the chances of infections. Also, consume a lot of seasonal fruits and avoid holding urine for a long time.
The author Dr. Sudeep Singh Sachdev is a Nephrologist at Narayana Super Speciality Hospital, Gurugram.