Urinary tract infection is a condition that causes bacterial infection of the urinary system. The infection may occur in any region of the urinary system. The urinary system is responsible for storing and excreting the body’s liquid waste. The urinary system includes a pair of kidneys, two ureters, a sac-like urinary bladder that stores urine, and the urethra. The symptoms of urinary tract infection depend on the part of the urinary system that is affected. It is a painful condition and has the highest rate of recurrence. This article will discuss urinary tract infections, their symptoms, causes, and various preventive measures.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
Bacterial infection of the urinary system can cause urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infection (UTI) starts as a mild burning sensation during voiding and can lead to a more dangerous kidney infection. Normal urine is sterile and does not contain any bacteria. When some bacteria enter the urinary bladder through the natural urinary passage (urethra), they are usually washed away. However, if the bacteria is virulent or the natural defenses are weak, they can multiply and stick to the bladder wall, causing an infection. Infection of the urethra is called urethritis, pyelonephritis involves the infection of the kidney, and infection of the urinary bladder is cystitis.
Why Are Women More Prone to UTIs?
Women are more commonly affected by urinary tract infections than men accounting for about 50 to 60 percent worldwide. It is because of the anatomical positioning of the urinary tract in women which makes them more prone to UTIs.
The urethra, the tube which carries the urine outside of the body, is generally located close to the anus (exit of the gastrointestinal tract) which increases the probability of bacterial infiltration.
The length of the urethral tube in females is shorter when compared to the males which make it easier for the infection-causing bacteria to reach the urinary bladder.
The fluctuating hormones of women’s menstrual cycle make them more vulnerable to infections.
Other common factors causing UTIs are menopause, birth control methods, poor hygiene, sexual activities, and pregnancy.
What Are the Symptoms of UTI?
Common symptoms of urinary tract infection are mentioned below.
Scanty and frequent voiding.
Burning sensation while voiding.
Dysuria (pain while urinating).
Nausea and vomiting.
Frequent urgency to urinate.
Lower back pain.
How to Prevent Urinary Infection in Women?
A few preventive measures to avoid the risk of getting urinary tract infections in women are mentioned below.
1. Staying Hydrated: It is recommended to stay hydrated as much as possible. It is necessary to drink fluids throughout the day. This in turn increases the frequency of urination. This will keep the kidneys healthy and also wash out any bacteria that enter the bladder.
2. Emptying Bladder Frequently: Regular and frequent emptying of the urinary bladder is important to prevent bacteria from staying in the bladder for a long time and multiplying. Patients with recurrent urinary tract infections are advised to empty their bladder more frequently. It is recommended to empty the bladder every three to four hours.
3. Proper Toileting Techniques: Practicing proper toileting techniques is important to prevent urinary tract infections. The anal region is more susceptible to bacteria and the genital region is generally clean. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the contamination from going back to the front. It is advisable to always wipe from front to back. It is always better to use two separate wipes for cleaning the genital region and anal region.
4. Urinate After Intercourse: Studies show that sexual activity increases the chances of getting a urinary tract infection. It is recommended to clean the genital region before having sexual intercourse. It is advised to urinate before and after having sex. This helps in washing away the bacteria which may have entered the urethra while having intercourse.
5. Prefer Showering: Women with a history of recurrent urinary tract infections are advised to prefer showers instead of bathtubs. Bathtubs are easily contaminated with bacteria which facilitates bacterial infiltration through the urinary tract.
6. Avoid Artificial Feminine Products: Recent studies show that using artificial intimate products is highly likely to cause bacterial infection in women. These products tend to irritate the urethra and the vagina. They disrupt the normal healthy flora of the vagina and urinary tract which are necessary to fight infection and facilitate the growth of harmful bacteria.
7. Avoid Diaphragms and Spermicidal Condoms: Diaphragm is one of the birth control techniques that uses a reusable silicone cup to create a barrier between the sperm and uterus. Spermicidal condoms are also a birth control method that uses condoms coated with a spermicide to protect the sperm from contacting the uterus. These are coated to give an extra layer of protection. Diaphragms and spermicidal condoms can promote bacterial overgrowth and change the normal vaginal pH respectively. Women with recurrent history of urinary tract infections are advised to use other birth control measures.
8. Appropriate Underwear: It is recommended to use cotton underwear and loose garments which allow for good aeration and prevent accumulation of moisture. Moisture is a prerequisite for bacterial growth.
9. Natural Remedies: Taking probiotics can increase the natural healthy flora of the vagina and urinary tract. Probiotics refer to live microorganisms that are essential for facilitating healthy bacterial growth in the urinary tract. Taking probiotics can help in preventing UTIs. Fermented foods such as yogurt and curd are natural probiotics rich in lactobacilli. These protective bacteria are normally present in the vagina and help in preventing harmful bacterial growth. Cranberries are rich in proanthocyanidins (a chemical compound that prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall). Apples, oranges, and peaches are naturally rich in D-mannose. This also helps in preventing UTIs.
10. Vitamin C Supplement: Vitamin C supplements of 500 to 1000 mg (milligrams) per day help to keep the urine acidic and prevent bacterial growth.
11. Vaginal Estrogen Cream: Women who are undergoing the postmenopausal stage tend to have low estrogen levels (female sex hormone) and an unhealthy vaginal lining. Applying estrogen cream in the vaginal route can help in keeping the vagina healthy and prevent UTIs. But it is strictly recommended to use it only if it is approved by the urologist or a gynecologist.
12. Organ Prolapse: Bladder or uterine prolapse (descend down) may interfere with urine emptying. If one suspects such issues, It is highly recommended to visit a gynecologist or urologist.
Urinary tract infection can be frustrating and annoying and it is a painful condition commonly affecting the women population. A neglected urinary infection may sometimes lead to a more critical kidney infection. The urinary tract infection is treated based on its underlying cause. There are various ways to prevent UTIs in women. It is also recommended to discuss with the healthcare provider regarding prevention of recurrent UTIs.
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