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Urinary Tract Infections in Women

A urinary tract infection will have you rushing to the doctor as fast as a jackrabbit in front of a prairie fire. This highly uncomfortable condition can recur for some women, but let’s look at what it is and how it can be properly managed. If you experience pain or pass blood as you pee, you might have picked up a urinary tract infection (UTI). Unpleasant, and sometimes, debilitating, the condition is more effectively treated if discovered early. Recognize the symptoms of female UTI early and taking the right course of treatment should have things back to normal in 2 – 3 days.

What is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection in your urinary tract. That can affect your urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidneys. The infection in your lower urinary tract such as the bladder or urethra can be really unpleasant but can be potentially life-threatening and is more severe if it occurs in the upper urinary tract, such as in the kidneys.

What causes UTI?

Women are more prone to UTI than men due to their anatomical structure. The infection is more often caused by bacteria but can be a result of fungi too. It is often a result of some form of irritation to the urinary tract as a result of sex, as well as the use of a diaphragm, spermicide, lubricant jelly, and condoms

Women may be more likely to have a UTI if they have a weakened immune system. This is why holding on to your bladder, or not drinking enough water, could increase your chances of a UTI, especially if you have had a UTI before.

Also Read  Men and Mental health

Other factors that can cause a UTI include:

  • Menopause as oestrogen levels change
  • Diabetes
  • Prolonged immobility
  • Prolonged use of urinary catheters
  • Urinary structure birth defects
  • Urinary tract obstructions or blockage

If you have a UTI while pregnant, the risk of it affecting the kidneys is greater.

Symptoms of a UTI?

The symptoms will depend on where the infection is in your urinary tract.

urine analysis test

Lower UTI: This involves the urethra and bladder. It is commonly known as cystitis and your symptoms may include:

  • burning sensation as you pee
  • cloudy or very dark urine
  • increased urgency to urinate
  • needing to urinate more often but unable to pass much urine
  • pain in your pelvis area
  • passing blood with your urine
  • urine that has a strong odour

Upper UTI: This affects the kidneys and can be potentially life-threatening if bacteria move into the bloodstream. This may cause dangerously low blood pressure, shock and even death. The symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • nausea
  • pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides
  • vomiting

What are the complications of UTI?

Left untreated, a UTI can have serious consequences that may include:

  • Increased risk in pregnant women of delivering low birth weight or premature infants
  • Permanent kidney damage from an acute or chronic kidney infection
  • Recurrent infections
  • Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, especially if the infection works its way up your urinary tract to your kidneys.

When to visit doctor for a UTI?

With early medical intervention, there should not be complications from a UTI. For lower tract infections, visit a health facility to get your urine tested as soon as you start to notice blood or pain with the passing of urine. Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics. If the symptoms persist, you should go back to your doctor or consult a urologist.

If left untreated, a UTI can spread up the urinary tract and affect the kidneys. This is more difficult to treat and can be life-threatening if the infection passes into your bloodstream.

Don’t be tempted to resort to home remedies. They will just delay your treatment and make the UTI more difficult to treat.

What to do when your UTI keeps coming back.

While most repeat cases are from reinfection with the same type of bacteria, recurrent cases could be due to an abnormality in the structure of the urinary tract. Your doctor may arrange for tests to rule out blockages or other structural abnormalities. These can include:

  • An ultrasound taken over your abdomen to check for any blockage of your urinary tract.
  • An x-ray of your abdomen following the injecting of a dye into your urinary tract so it shows up on the x-ray.
  • A cystoscopy, in which a tube with a small camera at the tip is inserted through your urethra and up into your bladder. Your doctor may also remove bladder tissue to test to eliminate bladder inflammation or cancer as a cause.
  • computerised tomography (CT) scan for detailed images of your urinary system.

How to minimise the risk of getting a UTI

  • Drink 6 – 8 glasses of water spread throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Go to the toilet when you have the urge. Don’t hold urine for long periods of time.
  • Pass urine after you have sexual intercourse to flush out any potential bacteria before it gets hold.
  • Don’t use potentially irritating feminine products such as deodorant sprays or douches and powders in the genital area as they can irritate the urethra.
  • Change your choice of barrier contraception if you suspect that it is a cause of UTI.
  • If you suffer from urinary incontinence or have difficulties fully emptying your bladder, talk to your doctor about managing this to reduce the risk of a UTI.
  • In menopause, talk to your doctor about taking topical medication.
  • If you have recurrent UTIs, talk to your doctor about taking preventive antibiotics long term or the use of cranberry supplements or probiotic to keep a healthy vaginal pH.

References

Everything You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infection. Retrieved 29 November 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/urinary-tract-infection-adults

Urinary tract infection (UTI). Retrieved 29 November 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447

What to know about urinary tract infections. Retrieved 29 November 2019 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/189953.php#prevention

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