Urinary tract infection or bladder infection is one of the most common causes of the visit to a healthcare provider. It is more common in women than men. The odds of having at least one UTI during your lifetime are about 60% for women and 12% for men. UTI is a severe bacterial infection that is quite painful. But, it is an easily preventable and treatable condition.
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection of the urinary system. It can occur anywhere in the urinary tract. Our urinary system contains a pair of kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Generally, urine is sterile and has no bacteria in it. The one-way flow of urine prevents infections in the urinary tract. It is still possible for bacteria to enter the bladder by traveling up the urethra from the urine and causing urinary tract infections. UTI most commonly affects the bladder. A bladder infection or UTI is called cystitis.
Why are women more susceptible to UTIs?
A woman’s susceptibility to getting a UTI is many folds higher than a man’s. A woman’s urethral length (the tube from where the urine comes out from the body) is shorter than a man’s; as a result, bacteria can more easily enter the urinary tract. The women may be at greater risk for UTI if they are:
- More sexually active, as a woman’s urethral opening is closer to the vagina and anus, from where germs can move to the urethra and cause UTI.
- Have menopause
- Kidney ailments such as kidney stones can block the urinary flow and cause UTIs.
- Recent use of a urinary catheter
- Uses diaphragm for birth control
- Using condoms with creams or spermicidal foams can increase the susceptibility of woman’s get UTIs.
- Anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract
- A recent invasive urinary procedure
What are the causes of urinary tract infections?
Usually, the urinary system keeps out the disease-causing pathogen. But sometimes, this defense fails, and bacteria and yeast (rarely) get into the urethra and urinary tract. Once inside, bacteria or yeast multiply and result in inflammation, sharp pain, and discomfort. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most common causative bacteria for UTIs.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, mycoplasma, and herpes, can also cause urethral infection.
What are the symptoms of urinary tract infection?
In UTI, the inner lining of the urethra and bladder becomes inflamed and irritated, which can cause some or all of the following symptoms:
- Pain and burning sensation during micturition
- Pain and pressure in the lower abdominal area, pelvic area, and sometimes in the lower back
- If the infection reaches to kidneys, a patient feels pain in the side area, high fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting.
- There is a constant urge to pee, but not much comes out
- Milky or cloudy urine and sometimes discharge is also visible
- Smelly urine
- Sometimes, red or cola-colored urine, which shows blood in the urine
- Feeling tired and weak
How is a urinary tract infection diagnosed?
To find out whether you have a urinary tract infection or not, your healthcare provider may suggest the following tests:
- A thorough analysis of case history
- Previous history of UTI
- Urine samples can identify bacteria, red blood cells, or white blood cells, which indicate the presence of infection and blood.
- A urine culture can identify certain bacteria or yeast in the urine.
- Imaging: Healthcare providers can recommend an ultrasound, a CT scan, or MRI to identify the inflammation and structural abnormalities of the urinary tract.
- Cystoscopy: In this procedure, your doctor puts a small hollow tube with a camera into the urethra to see and identify issues in the urethra and bladder.
What is the treatment for a urinary tract infection?
Antibiotic therapy is the first-line treatment for UTIs. Depending on your symptoms, health, and pathogen detected in your urine culture, your healthcare provider may determine the medicine and duration of the course. The treatment of UTI also depends on which type of UTI you have, such as:
- Simple UTIs: These happen in healthy people with a normal urinary tract. Most women get it. The doctor may prescribe a short course of an appropriate antibiotic, which depends on the type of bacterial strain, including:
- Complicated UTIs: Abnormal urinary tract or resistant-bacterial infections come under complicated UTIs. It happens more frequently in men and children. The healthcare providers prescribe a longer course of antibiotics. Sometimes, the doctors give intravenous antibiotics initially for a few days and then shift to oral for two weeks.
The UTI may improve within a few days of antibiotic therapy.
Drinking plenty of water, maintaining hygiene, emptying the bladder soon after sexual intercourse, changing birth control measures, drinking cranberry juice, and avoiding harmful intimate hygiene products can reduce the risk of UTIs. It is crucial to seek immediate medical treatment if you have UTI, as ignoring it may cause the spreading of infection to the kidneys.
Dr. Satinder Kaur | Director & Senior Consultant – Gynae Oncology & Robotic Surgery | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi