About Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
As one of the most common infections in women, UTIs commonly involve the lower urinary tract, the bladder and the urethra tube which empties urine. However, they can also occur in the tubes connecting the bladder to the kidneys – the ureters – and in the kidneys themselves.
These are typically:
- A burning pain when you urinate
- More urgency to urinate
- A need to urinate more often than usual
- Pain in your lower abdomen
Having cloudy urine or a strange odour to your urine is not alone a good indicator of a UTI as this depends on what you have eaten and how well hydrated you are. However, if you are experiencing other symptoms as well this too could be a sign of you having a UTI.
Sometimes your body will be able to clear these without medical intervention. However, if these symptoms last for more than two days you should get in touch with your GP. And you should get in touch with your GP immediately if you experience:
- Feeling very tired
- Feeling uncomfortable in your stomach or back
- Pain on tapping your kidneys below the back ribs
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms it is more likely to be an SDI, yeast infection or painful bladder syndrome
- A vaginal discharge
- Itching around the vagina
- Burning as you finish urinating
So again, don’t ignore them.
What causes a UTI?
Unfortunately, the biggest risk factor is simply being female as the urethra opening is close to your anus and your vagina where there is a high amount of bacteria present.
Men do get UTIs but much more rarely as their long urethra makes it more difficult for bacteria to enter. UTI’s become more common as men age when enlarged prostates make it more difficult for them to fully empty their bladders.
Children can also develop a UTI – these are difficult to diagnose so a urine sample is usually tested. Children with bladder and bowel dysfunctions are more likely to develop a UTI than a child with no such conditions.
Statistically about half of all women will experience a UTI at some time in their lives whereas only 12% of men will do so
Sexual intercourse is the biggest cause of infection as it has the potential for putting bacteria near to the urethra. Use of diaphragm and spermicides can increase this risk.
Pregnancy can also trigger infections in your urinary tract. This is because the flow of urine is slowed down through a combination of the hormone progesterone reducing the muscle tone in your uterus and bladder and the pressure on your bladder from a growing foetus.
Another trigger is the menopause and I have written about this previously
Poorly controlled diabetes is also a risk, as is having kidney stones or another abnormality of the urinary tract.
A trigger for both men and women is any medical implement near the urethra such as a catheter.
How to prevent a UTI
Keeping hydrated and not holding onto a urine flow is the best way to avoid UTI’s, as your body can then produce a good urine flow to wash away any bacteria
You might be surprised to know that there is no clear scientific evidence that cranberry juice or supplements are preventative.
Probiotics via yoghurt, kefir or fermented foods are increasingly recommended as are probiotic supplements. Whilst these alone cannot offer protection, it is believed that building healthy flora in your vagina and your bowel can be effective when done in tandem with other methods of prevention
You should avoid washing, douching or using cleansing wipes inside your vagina. This can throw off the natural healthy balance of your body’s PH and bacterial balance. You are advised to gently wash the exterior portion of your genitals with soap and water.
A Canadian Study which looked at 1500 women in 2018 found that women using gel sanitisers were 8 times more likely to have a yeast infection and 20 times more likely to develop a bacterial infection. The study also looked a feminine washed and wipes. You can read more about it here
Wearing cotton underwear rather than that made of artificial fibres should also help.
Treatment for a UTI
Unfortunately, nearly 20% of women who have had one UTI will subsequently experience another and 30% of women who have had 2 UTI’s will go on to experience a third.
When you visit your GP you will be asked questions about your symptoms as well as covering the areas of risk as described above. A physical exam testing for tenderness around the lower abdomen or around your kidneys will take place if you are actually in the surgery.
A general antibiotic should clear up an infection but do ask how quickly you should start to feel better and what you should do if you don’t feel better.
80% to 90% of UTI’s are caused by e-coli bacteria. However, if you have two infections in 6 months or 3 in 12 months your GP will test your urine to work out which type of bacteria is causing a problem so that more targeted antibiotics can be prescribed.
One new treatment possibility is the taking of a supplement called d-mannose – this is a sugar which stops infected bacteria becoming more prolific in the bladder. It appears to work because it hinders bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract. You can read more about this here
I hope this is helpful
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