Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), is an infection in which microorganisms enter through the urethra and travel up to the urinary tract. They are caused mainly by bacteria but could be caused by viruses or fungi. These mocrobes can ascend to the bladder or both kidneys. A UTI affecting the bladder is called cystitis and this is a lower urinary tract infection and when it affects the kidneys its called pyelonephritis or an upper UTI. It is important to note that since the bacteria can ascend through the urinary tract, lower UTIs can lead to upper UTIs. When bacteria attack kidneys, that can permanently reduce its function and in people with already existing kidney problems, this may lead to kidney failure.
Bacteria may be introduced into the urinary tract of females by wiping from the back (rectal area) to the front (vaginal opening) when cleaning oneself which can introduce a bacteria called Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) from the gastrointestinal tract to the urinary tract. E. Coli is the most common causative agent of UTIs. Other microorganisms like the Chlamydia and mycoplasma can affect the urethra but rarely affect the bladder. Women are therefore advised to wipe from the front to back after using the bathroom.
Females are more susceptible to UTIs because they have short urethras compared to males who have long urethras which is farther to the anal opening. Therefore, the chances of contamination from the rectal area to the opening of the urethra are very slim. Some women are genetically susceptible to UTIs while others are susceptible due to abnormalities in the structure of their urinary tract. Thid could be caused by complications of female genital mutilation. Women with diabetes may be at higher risk because their compromised immune system makes them less able to fight UTIs. Conditions like pregnancy, kidney stones, stroke amongst others can increase the risk of UTIs in an individual.
Another way that a urinary tract infection can be contacted is through sexual intercourse, since bacteria can also be introduced to the bladder but the good news is that is not very contagious hence treatment can be started right away. If the treatment is not started early, it can spread to the kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause a permanent damage.
Signs of UTIs
· A burning feeling when you urinate
· A frequent or intense urge to urinate even though little urine comes out when you do
· Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen
· Cloudy, dark, bloody or strange smelling urine, it may also contain pus.
· Feeling tired
· Fever or chills
How to prevent UTIs
· Empty your bladder frequently and be sure you’ve emptied your bladder completely.
· Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom so as to reduce the possibility of introducing bacteria from egested waste of the gastrointestinal tract to the urethra.
· Drink lots of water since some bacteria can be flushed out of your system through urination
· Reduce usage of feminine hygiene sprays, washing of your genital area with perfumed soaps and more as they might increase irritation.
· Practice protected sex or clean your genital area before and after sex.
· Types of contraceptives used is also important as contraceptives like diaphragm can increase bacteria growth.
· Unlubricated condoms too can cause irritation in the vaginal walls.
· Keep your genital area clean and dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose fitting clothes to prevent environment favouring bacterial growth.
· Avoid wearing nylon underwear since it can create a moist environment which can be a perfect harbour for bacterial growth.
Treatment for UTIs
If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, visit a doctor. Few urine tests might be conducted and prescriptions will be given. Remember, the earlier, the better. Antibiotics are mostly used for the early stage of the treatment but it’s always safer to get the diagnoses and the prescriptions done by a qualified health practitioner because we think your lives are precious. It’s curable, and the treatment is very fast and effective. All you have to do is see a doctor. So stay safe!
Author: Oumie Gaye