Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are infections that affect the urinary tract (a system in your body that makes urine and carries it out of your body, it includes; bladder, kidneys and the tubes that connect them).
When it affects the lower urinary tract, it is known as a Simple Bladder Infection and when it affects the upper urinary tract it is known as a Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis).
Usually germs get into your system through the urethra (the tubes that carry urine from your bladder to the outside of your body) the germs that usually cause these infections live-in your large intestine and are found in your stool. If these germs get inside your urethra, they can travel up into your bladder and kidneys and cause infections.
Many investigators suggest that women are far more susceptible than men to Urinary Tract Infections because their urethra is short and its exit (or entry for pathogens) is close to the anus and vagina, which can be sources of pathogens.
You may be more likely to get an infection if you do not drink enough fluids, you have diabetes, or you are pregnant. The chance that you will get a bladder infection is higher if you have any problem that blocks the flow of urine from your bladder. Examples include having kidney stones, an enlarged prostate gland or any anatomical abnormality in the urinary tract. This is due in part to the flushing or washout effect of flowing urine; in effect, the pathogens have to “go against flow” because the majority of pathogens enter through the urethra and have to go retrograde (against a barrier of urine flow in the urinary tract) to reach the bladder, ureters, and eventually the kidneys.
Common urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms include:
- Urge to urinate frequently, often in small amounts
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Cloudy urine
- Strong unpleasant smell of urine
- Dark or bloody urine
- Pelvic pain
- Flank or back pain (kidney infection)
- Fever, chills (usually with kidney infection)
- Other possible symptoms include bloating, vaginal discharge (in women)
Babies occasionally develop UTIs, but they can’t tell you what they feel. Some signs to look out for include;
- An unexplained fever
- Strange-smelling urine
- Poor appetite or vomiting
- Fussy behavior
Bacteria: The most common causes of Urinary Tract Infections (about 80%) are E. coli bacterial strains that usually inhabit the colon. However, many other bacteria can occasionally cause an infection (for example, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, Enterobacter, Proteus, Staphylococcus, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, Serratia and Neisseria spp.), but are far less frequent causes than E. coli.
In addition, fungi (Candida and Cryptococcus spp.) and some parasites (Trichomonas and Schistosoma) also may cause UTIs.
Sex: especially in young sexually active women. Having sex can also make it easier for germs to get into your urethra
Urinary catheters: this increases the risk of bacteria in the urine
Other causes include; Diabetes, Being uncircumcised and having a large prostate
For those with recurrent infections, a prolonged course of daily antibiotics is effective.
It is also possible to reduce the chance that a UTI will develop with dietary methods and some supplements but prevention of all UTIs is unlikely with these methods.
Dietary changes such as increasing fluid intake will usually increase urine formation and dilute the urine. This coupled with increased flow rates will tend to reduce or eliminate retrograde bacterial advancement and reduce the chance for infection.
Supplements such as cranberry juice or cranberry tablets, vitamin C tablets and yogurt may reduce the chance that a UTI will develop. However, changes in a person’s lifestyle may reduce the chance getting a UTI as good as, if not better than, any diet or supplement.
Infants and Older children
It’s vital to treat a baby’s UTI quickly to prevent kidney damage. Promptly changing a dirty diaper can help prevent bladder infections. And of course, wipe from front to back whenever changing a baby’s diaper.
Teach children good toilet habits and hygiene;
- Wiping from front to back
- Washing their hands after each visit to the toilet
- Changing soiled underwear’s immediately.
- Urinate immediately after sexual intercourse. This is the best protection women have against UTIs, because it helps prevent bacteria from moving into the urethra.
- Avoid using condoms coated with spermicide or a diaphragm for birth control if your doctor believes they are causing you to get UTIs.
- Change sanitary napkins often.
- Avoid douches, feminine hygiene sprays, and other feminine hygiene products with deodorant. These can change the normal balance of organisms that help prevent infection.
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet to avoid spreading bacteria from your anus to your urinary tract.
- Try cranberry products like pure cranberry juice, cranberry extract, or cranberry pills.
- If you get UTIs often, ask your doctor about taking antibiotics right after sexual intercourse to prevent recurrent UTIs.
- Estrogen has a protective effect in the urinary tract, but levels of this hormone drop off significantly during menopause. Low estrogen levels can make it easier for bacteria to thrive in the vagina or urethra. For this reason, women may be more susceptible to UTIs after menopause. Post-menopausal women should ask their doctors about using vaginal estrogen to prevent recurrent UTIs.
Keep the tip of your penis clean, especially if you are uncircumcised. The foreskin can trap bacteria, which can then get into the urinary tract and cause infection.
Retracting the foreskin before urinating reduces the chance of urine lingering at the urethral opening and acting as a culture media for pathogens.
The mainstay of treatment is antibiotics. Please consult your Doctor or Pharmacist, for the antibiotic appropriate for you.