It is said that Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is so common that it affects more than 50% of women at least once in their lifetime. However, despite being so prevalent, this ailment is rarely discussed in public and is often hushed upon even in closed rooms. Realizing the need to spread awareness about the causes, effects, and symptoms of UTI, we at The Week spoke to Dr Deepak Raj Pandey, general physician at Manmohan Memorial Hospital in Thamel, Kathmandu, who provided us with some basic information that you might find helpful to cure or prevent this problem.
What is Urinary Tract Infection?
UTI is an infection caused by microbes such as bacteria and fungi. This occurs when your body’s natural defenses in the urinary tract is overcome by these microbes. It would not be wrong to say that UTI is one of the most common infections in the human body. This infection can occur in any part of the urinary tract including kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Infections on the upper tract, which are kidneys and ureters, are less common than infections on the lower tract.
Do men suffer from UTI as well?
Yes, men definitely suffer from this infection. But women are more likely to get affected by this disease. This is because female urethras are more exposed and are shorter than male urethras. So, in a female body, infected bacteria have to travel a shorter distance to reach the bladder. This increases the probability of women suffering from urinary tract infection as compared to men.
What are the causes of UTI?
UTI is caused when microbes enter the sterile urine in a human body. In the initial phase, this infection develops at the opening of urethra. It then slowly starts spreading up towards the urinary tract. One of the major reasons for UTI, among Nepalis, is unhygienic sanitation facilities. Most public toilets, toilets at the hospitals or even personal toilets are not kept clean. This causes UTI.
Another reason for Urinary Tract Infection, especially among women, can be sexual intercourse. Many women get UTI for the first time during the initial days of their sexual activity. This is because during intercourse colonic bacteria are transferred more easily through urethra.
UTI may also be caused due to a suppressed immune system. For example, people suffering from diabeties have high changes of getting this infection. Higher sugar level in the urine makes it easier for bacteria to breed. Diabetics may also be at a greater risk of recurrent UTI because diabetes hinders the natural healing process in a human body.
There are high chances of women getting UTI during pregnancy as well. This is because women’s urethra becomes extremely weak at that time. And finally, birth control measures such as spermicidal creams, if not washed properly, can cause UTI too.
Are there any specific symptoms of UTI?
One of the common symptoms of UTI is a strong and constant urge to urinate. UTI also causes strong burning sensation during urination. Passing frequent and small amounts of urine is another symptom of UTI.
If your urine looks cloudy, red, brownish, or pink or you notice a sign of blood in your urine then there are high chances that you might be suffering from UTI. The infection may even cause strong smelling urine and pelvic pain especially among women. The pain is mostly caused at the center of the pelvis or around the pelvis bone.
Can you tell us about some of the complications that a person may face during and after UTI?
If UTI is not treated properly and on time, it may cause various complications. Recurrent infections are one of them. If the disease is not treated properly, there are chances that a woman may experience more than two infections in a span of six months.
Acute or chronic infection can lead to permanent kidney damage. And if a pregnant woman is suffering from UTI, she may give birth to a premature baby. Among men, this infection may lead to stricture or a condition of urethral narrowing.
How can UTI be cured or prevented from reoccurring?
First and foremost, if you have symptoms of UTI, you must visit a doctor. Your doctor may ask you for your urine sample and prescribe medicines according to the intensity of your infection to cure your disease.
There are also some precautions you can take to cure and prevent this infection in the future. To prevent this disease, the best way to get started is to drink plenty of water. This helps in diluting urine and ensures that the harmful bacteria are flushed out of the urine. If you have initial signs of UTI, you must avoid drinking beverages that irritate your bladder such as alcohol, soft drinks, or coffee.
You must also empty your bladder before and after sexual intercourse. This helps in flushing out any kind of harmful bacteria. To prevent this infection from reoccurring, birth control measures such as spermicidal creams should be washed off properly. These creams kill sperms but can also be a good breeding ground for bacteria. Also, in the toilet, wipe with a tissue from front to back instead of back to front. This is important to prevent any kind of bacteria spreading from the anal region.